Most U.S. Kids Getting Recommended Vaccinations

THURSDAY, Sept. 4 (HealthDay News) -- The vast majority of American children are getting their recommended vaccinations, federal health officials said Thursday.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, immunization rates remain at or near record levels, with at least 90 percent coverage for all but one of the vaccines in the recommended series for children.

The CDC's 2007 National Immunization Survey also found that 77.4 percent of children have been fully vaccinated with all the recommended vaccines, with no differences for any racial or ethnic groups. And less than 1 percent of children have not received any vaccinations by ages 19 to 35 months.

"Vaccines save lives and prevent suffering," CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding said during a Thursday teleconference. "Over time, vaccinations have prevented about 14 million cases of vaccine-preventable diseases and 33,000 premature deaths."

A recent outbreak of measles highlights the continued need for vaccinations, Gerberding said. "Many of the children who were affected by this were not vaccinated adequately against measles, because their parents chose not to do so, and some of them were children who were just too young to be fully immunized."

Diseases such as measles can still be imported for many other places in the world. "We are basically one traveler away from creating a threat to unvaccinated kids. We have to remain vigilant, and we can't let down our guard until the whole world is protected as we are," Gerberding said.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, noted during the teleconference that vaccinations also save about $44 million over the lifetime of vaccinated children in direct and indirect costs.

The findings in the vaccination study, published in the Sept. 5 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, were gathered from a survey of more than 17,000 vaccination records of children born between January 2004 and July 2006. The survey included vaccinations up to the ages of 19 to 35 months, Schuchat said.

According to the CDC, the recommended vaccines include four doses of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine (DTaP); three doses of polio vaccine; one or more doses of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR); three doses of Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine (Hib); three doses of hepatitis B vaccine; and one or more doses of varicella, or chickenpox, vaccine.

According to the CDC, vaccinations should start shortly after birth and continue to age 2. The last dose of the DTaP vaccine is the only vaccine that hasn't achieved 90 percent coverage. Coverage for this vaccination remains at 84.5 percent, the report said.

For the first time, 2007 saw 90 percent coverage for the varicella vaccine and for the third dose of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV). Coverage with four doses of the PCV vaccine has reached 75.3 percent. The PCV vaccine protects against several types of meningitis, pneumonia, bloodstream infections and ear infections, according to the report.

Vaccine coverage did, however, vary between the states from 91.3 percent in Maryland to 63.1 percent in Nevada. Vaccination coverage also varied in the 14 metropolitan areas covered in the CDC survey. In Philadelphia, the city with the highest coverage, 82.2 percent of children had received all the recommended vaccines, compared with 69.6 percent of children in San Bernardino, Calif., the area with the lowest coverage.

"There is still a vaccine coverage gap in poor children compared with others," Schuchat said. "The good news this year is that the gap between those children living in poverty and other children is narrowing. So, we are making progress, but we are not finished with all the work we have to do," she said.

Dr. Pascal James Imperato, dean of the master of public health program at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in New York City, called the new report very good news.

"What is significant about this is that this is the age group that historically over the past two decades has been hard to raise immunization levels," Imperato said.

"Viruses brought into the country with individuals coming from a high endemic area will quickly find their way into an unimmune cluster of individuals, as we have seen from time to time with diseases such as mumps and pertussis and measles," he said.

More information

For more on vaccinations, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCES: Sept. 4, 2008, teleconference with Julie Gerberding, M.D., director, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta; Anne Schuchat, M.D., director, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases; Pascal James Imperato, M.D., dean, master of public health program, State University of New York Downstate Medical Center, New York City; Sept. 5, 2008, CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report