Racial gap in childhood vaccination rate closes

The overall vaccination rate among black children ages 19 months to 35 months last year for the first time equaled rates among white, Asian and Hispanic children in the same age group, according to a CDC report released recently, the AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports.

For the report, researchers examined the results of an annual random-digit-dialed telephone survey, which had a 65% response rate, and reviewed vaccination records for the 17,500 children from households that participated.

According to the report, among black, white, Asian and Hispanic children, about 76% to 79% received the complete recommended series of vaccinations against whooping cough, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza type B.

The report finds that Massachusetts children had the highest overall vaccination rate at about 91% and that Vermont children had the lowest rate at about 63%.

According to the AP/Post-Intelligencer, "Racial disparities in vaccination rates have existed for decades," but they "have been narrowing significantly in the past five or six years," in part because of Vaccines for Children, a program that the federal government established in 1994 to cover the cost of vaccinations for low-income children.

Reaction

Walter Orenstein, an Emory University vaccination expert, said of the report, "This is an important milestone. It shows you that racial and ethnic differences can be eliminated" in health care.

Neal Halsey, director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety at Johns Hopkins University, said that, although "this is the first year overall rates didn't vary" by race, "next year there can be a difference."

Halsey added that the overall vaccination rate among children should increase. He said, "Seventy-six percent is good, but it's not great.

We still have a quarter of the children in this country not getting all the recommended vaccines in a timely manner" (Stobbe, AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 9/14).


Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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