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Reuters Health Information (2005-07-26): U.S. child vaccination rate hits new record high

Public Health

U.S. child vaccination rate hits new record high

Last Updated: 2005-07-26 15:48:43 -0400 (Reuters Health)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. children are getting vaccinated at record high rates, with 81% of toddlers 19 months to 3 years old receiving the full recommended series, health officials said on Tuesday.

This is up from 79.4% last year and continues a steady upward climb, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

"These results...illustrate the tremendous progress we've made in preventing what were once common childhood diseases," said CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding.

"Most importantly, these results show that parents have high levels of confidence in our vaccination recommendations."

U.S. health officials have felt pressure from a few small but increasingly vocal groups who question the safety of childhood vaccines. They first tackled the combined measles, mumps and rubella or whooping cough vaccine, and now blame a mercury-based preservative called thimerosal once used in vaccines for causing, among other things, autism.

Numerous official reports have absolved vaccines of causing damage to young children, but activists have won the backing of some members of Congress.

The controversy does not seem to have affected overall vaccination rates, however.

"In 2004, coverage for the 4:3:1:3:3 series, which includes four doses of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP), three or more doses of polio vaccine, one or more doses of measles-containing vaccine, three or more doses of Hib vaccine -- which can prevent meningitis and pneumonia -- and three doses of hepatitis B vaccine, increased to 80.9%, compared to 79.4% in 2003," the CDC said.

Most children are also getting newer vaccines against chickenpox and pneumococcal disease, the CDC's National Immunization Survey found.

More than 87% got the varicella vaccine, which protects against chickenpox, and more than 73% got at least three doses of the new pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, which protects against seven different strains of bacteria that cause pneumonia, ear infections and other types of infection.

Dr. Stephen Cochi, acting director of CDC's National Immunization Program, said some areas of the United States lag in vaccine usage.

Only 68.4% of children in Nevada and 64.8% in El Paso County, Texas, are fully vaccinated.

"If we want to prevent the return of diseases that are currently rare in the United States, we must maintain our high immunization rates, and work to ensure those rates are high in all states and communities," Dr. Cochi said in a statement.

The CDC now also recommends that teens and pre-teens be routinely vaccinated against meningitis, and is considering a recommendation that they get a booster vaccine against whooping cough.

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