We still have more children to immunize as the recent Disney measles outbreak demonstrates, but there is great cause for celebration by pediatricians and public health officials: vaccination rates among young children are actually quite high. From 2012-2013, many of the most important vaccines for young children such as the measles vaccine (MMR), hepatitis B vaccine, poliovirus vaccine, and chicken pox vaccine have been administered to over 90% of children aged 19 -35 months. It is estimated that this level of vaccination in children born between 1994 and 2013 will prevent 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations, and 732,000 deaths during these children’s lifetimes. What a tremendous achievement! But it is too early to rest on our laurels. In order to get the maximum benefit from vaccines for our children, we need to continue to improve vaccine delivery for every child. Currently, we are having problems getting the children of families with either very low and very high incomes vaccinated.
Even though vaccine coverage is increasing for most children, a recent National Immunization Survey (1) indicates that many children who live below the poverty line are not getting all the vaccines they need in a timely fashion. This problem is especially evident in rates of follow-up vaccines for those vaccines that require more than one round of treatment, such as DTaP (for diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough) and PCV (for prevention of pneumococcal infections). Children in lower income households frequently miss their wellness check-ups that are crucial in delivering vaccines, thus contributing to the decline. Purposeful steps must be taken to ensure that these children do not fall through the cracks.
Thankfully, there are new programs and systems available to boost vaccine rates in children. The “Vaccines for Children” program has reduced the disparity in vaccination rates for children in lower income households by providing free vaccines to private doctors who provide services to lower income families. Educating parents on the risks of missed vaccines and the long-term benefits of proper vaccination for their children is also key to increasing vaccine rates. Hopefully, the recent surge in cases of measles will serve as a reminder to parents to get their children immunized. Finally, it is hoped that by using national media campaigns, telephone reminder systems, and computer-based vaccine databases, parents and doctors will decrease the missed opportunities to vaccinate. If your child or the child of someone you know has missed a vaccine, schedule an appointment with your child’s doctor as soon as possible. Let’s raise that vaccine rate to a nice even 100%, shall we? With everyone’s help, we can.
Your comments are welcome at my blog, www.docsmo.com. Until next time.
1. National, State, and Selected Local Area Vaccination Coverage Among Children Aged 19–35 Months — United States, 2013 http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6334a1.htm?s_cid=mm6334a1_e 2. Rich People in Hollywood aren’t Vaccinating their Children, by Kara Brown, September 2014 http://jezebel.com/rich-people-in-hollywood-arent-vaccinating-their-childr-1633139304 Written collaboratively by Keri Register and Paul Smolen M.D.