Childhood Immunization Rates Surpass Healthy People 2010 Goal

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced today that the nation's childhood immunization coverage rates continue at record high levels, with about 81 percent of the nation's 19-to-35-month-old children receiving all the vaccinations in the recommended series.  This is the first time coverage for the baseline series of vaccines (4:3:1:3:3 series) has exceeded 80 percent which also represents the Healthy People 2010 goal.  Healthy People establishes goals to improve the nation's health; increasing immunization coverage is one of its goals.

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 percent, compared to 79.4 percent in 2003, 74.8 percent in 2002, 73.7 percent in 2001 and 72.8 percent in 2000.

"These results are terrific news," said Julie Gerberding, MD, MPH, director of the CDC. "They illustrate the tremendous progress we've made in preventing what were once common childhood diseases.  Most importantly, these results show that parents have high levels of confidence in our vaccination recommendations. It's encouraging to see that parents recognize the importance of protecting their children against diseases that while relatively uncommon, can cause serious harm."

The 2004 National Immunization Survey also found significant increases in the percentage of young children receiving chickenpox and the childhood pneumococcal vaccine, two relatively recent additions to the childhood immunization schedule.  The vaccines, because they were added in the past five years, are not yet included in the overall series.  National coverage with chickenpox (varicella) vaccine increased to 87.5 percent in 2004 from 84.8 percent  in 2003. Coverage for three or more doses of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7) increased to 73.2 percent in 2004 from 68.1 percent in 2003. Coverage for  doses of PCV7 increased to 43.4 percent compared with 35.8 percent in 2003, the first year coverage was measured for the fourth dose. 

The overall results indicated that vaccination rates for the fourth dose of  DTaP vaccine, at 85.5 percent coverage, continued to lag behind other vaccines in the 4:3:1:3:3 series.  As a result, the coverage estimates for the overall series is reduced.

The high immunization rates are also an indication that temporary shortages of some of the routinely recommended childhood vaccines primarily affected when, rather than whether, children were vaccinated.  For example, some of the older children included in the 2004 NIS survey would have been eligible to receive DTaP during a March 2001-June 2002 shortage; however, DTaP coverage remained comparable to 2003.  

In 2004, as in previous years, there was substantial variation in coverage levels among states and among cities. Estimated coverage with the 4:3:1:3:3 series ranged from 89.1% in Massachusetts to 68.4 percent in Nevada.  The range in coverage among the 28 urban areas was similar as among the states.  Among the 28 urban areas, the highest estimated coverage for the 4:3:1:3:3 series was 89.7 percent for Davidson County, Tennessee, and the lowest was 64.8 percent in El Paso County, Texas.

"We're very pleased with the overall findings, but the survey also shows there are places where we have work to do," said Dr. Stephen L. Cochi, acting director of CDC's National Immunization Program. "We want all children to be well protected from vaccine preventable diseases.  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."

Source: CDC and Department of Health and Human Services

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