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.

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