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CDC Finds Adolescents Lagging In Immunization


ATLANTA -- America's children are getting their shots, but adolescents are lagging, according to the CDC.

ATLANTA, Aug. 30 -- America's children are getting their shots, but adolescents are lagging, according to the CDC.

In 2006, 77% of children ages 19 to 35 months got the complete series of recommended vaccinations, up from 76.1% the year before, said Melinda Wharton, M.D., deputy director of the CDC's National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases.

On the other hand, immunization coverage for adolescents ages 13 through 17 ranged from a high of 80% for two or more doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine to a low of 12% for the newly licensed meningococcal conjugate vaccine, Dr. Wharton told a press teleconference.

"We're doing well with children but we have a way to go with adolescents," Dr. Wharton said after summarizing data from the National Immunization Survey, which appears in the Aug. 31 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Report.

The report marks the first time that the survey has included data for adolescents, she said.

Since 2005, three new vaccines have been recommended specifically for pre-teens and adolescents - the meningococcal vaccine, a tetanus/diphtheria vaccine that now includes an anti-pertussis component, and a vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV).

Dr. Wharton said that 60% of adolescents had been given two or more doses of either the tetanus/diphtheria vaccine (Td) or the newer tetanus/diphtheria/acellular pertussis vaccine (Tdap).

Because the HPV vaccine was only licensed in the middle of 2006, there's little information on coverage, Dr. Wharton said. However, she said data from the vaccine's maker shows that 7.5 million doses had been delivered by June this year.

"For a new vaccine, that's quite a number of doses," she said.

The survey of children shows substantial variation in complete coverage from state to state, Dr. Wharton said, from a high of 83.6% in Massachusetts to a low of 59.5% in Nevada.

The survey also showed large variations in coverage in 30 local areas, with Boston highest at 81.4% and Detroit lowest at 65.2%. Dr. Wharton said the variations are probably the result of a range of factors, including demographics and resources.

As in previous years, coverage of white children continues to be higher than black children, Dr. Wharton said - 77.9% versus 73.9%.

But the 4% difference "is accounted for by the frequency of poverty in these two groups," she said, noting that children in families below the poverty line tend to be less likely to get all their shots.

"We think the difference is due to socioeconomics and not race," Dr. Wharton said, "but it's still a real difference and something we need to work on."

The report comes two weeks after states reported on the proportion of children starting school with all their shots. (CDC Cites Progress on Childhood Immunization Goals)

Dr. Wharton said those data showed that 75% of states had met a target of having all the recommended vaccinations in at least 95% of the kids starting school.

Combined with the national survey, she said, the state-by-state data show "we're doing a good job getting children vaccinated by the time they start school."

The six recommended vaccines prevent 10 diseases - diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, polio, hepatitis B, and haemophilus influenzae B.

Because of immunization programs, many of those diseases are now rare, Dr. Wharton said, although they were once a "common and frightening part of life."

"We want to keep them in the textbooks and not in our households, in our families, or in our hospitals," she said.

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