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Immunizations in Children: Black-White Racial Gap Closed


ATLANTA -- For the first time in years, there is no black-white racial gap in the immunization rates of the nation's toddlers, according to CDC data from 2006.

ATLANTA, Sept. 15 -- For the first time in years, the black-white racial gap in the immunization rates of the nation's toddlers has been erased, according to CDC data from 2005.

Moreover, immunization rates for six pediatric vaccines are at or near record highs, Anne Schuchat, M.D., director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases said at a press briefing.

On the basis of data collected by the CDC's annual National Immunization Survey, the estimated immunization coverage rate for six pediatric vaccines was 76.3% in blacks and 76.0% in whites. By contrast, the 2004 rates were 70.9% for blacks and 77.2% for whites.

In 2002, the vaccine coverage rate for five of the pediatric vaccines (varicella was not included until this year) was 10% lower for black children than for white children, she said.

The CDC tracked immunization rates for four doses diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP) vaccine, three doses of polio vaccine, one does of measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, three doses of Hib vaccine, three doses of hepatitis B vaccine and one dose of varicella vaccine.

Dr. Schuchat said that the gap was closed by improving immunization of black children, not by lowering the vaccine coverage of white children, who had the best coverage in earlier surveys.

Although the CDC said the black-white disparity had lasted for a decade, the agency could not provide statistics for 10 years earlier, claiming that measurement parameters had changed. The full results of the survey were published in the Sept. 15 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The National Immunization Survey provides estimates of vaccine coverage in all 50 states by a random digit dialing survey of households along with verification of those responses with vaccination records from providers. The latest survey represents data collected on 17,563 children ages 19 months to 35 months.

The highest estimated coverage was in children of multiple races with an estimated 79.5% coverage rate, followed by 77.1% for Asians, 76.3% for blacks, 76.0% for whites, and 75.6% for Hispanics.

Dr. Schuchat credited the federal Vaccines for Children Program for the improvement in vaccine coverage That program provides free vaccines to physicians to use with eligible children. The program is administered nationally by Dr. Schuchat's department.

But while the racial gap has closed, there are still wide variations in vaccine coverage among states. For example, Massachusetts leads the country with the highest estimated immunization coverage at 90.7% for the six vaccines included in the immunization snap shot, while Vermont, its neighbor, with an estimated 62.9% immunization coverage rate is last among states.

And the entire nation is not yet on track to meet the CDC's Healthy People 2010 goal of 80% immunization coverage for the six vaccines tracked in this year's survey.

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