Youth immunization rates encouraging: CDC report

According to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) out Monday, more and more American adolescents are receiving recommended vaccines.

Last week there was a report that toddler vaccinations are on the rise as well, suggesting public concerns over vaccine safety are waning. Dr. Samir S. Shah, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, who was not linked to the work said, “I think that is very good news.” He added that scientists and health officials have ramped up their efforts to promote vaccines and explain their risks and benefits.

The shots can cause swelling and soreness at the injection site, as well as mild fever in some cases. But serious side effects such as severe allergic reactions are very rare - less than one in a million, experts say. And in late August, a review done by the Institute of Medicine found no evidence that vaccinations cause autism or diabetes, which some parents and a few researchers had worried might be the case.

“Parents are also becoming involved and participating in helping debunk some of the myths surrounding vaccines,” Shah said.

The new study, by Shannon Stokley and colleagues at the CDC in Atlanta, is based on more than 20,000 teens who agreed to let their doctors send their vaccination information to the researchers. NIS-Teen, conducted between Jan. 6, 2009, and Feb. 10, 2010, used random-digit dialing to survey households with age-eligible adolescents and, with consent, mailed an Immunization History Questionnaire to providers. The researchers completed interviews with 35,004 households and obtained information from vaccine providers for 20,066 children and adolescents.

It shows DT or DTaP vaccinations - which protect against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough - climbed from 34 percent among children born in 1991 to 68 percent among those born in 1996. Meningococcal vaccinations jumped from eight percent to 50 percent for kids born in 1993 and 1996, respectively. For girls, receipt of the human papillomavirus vaccine - which helps protect against genital warts and cervical cancer -- was 11 percent for those born in 1994 and 31 percent for those born in 1996.

But there is still room for improvement, according to the CDC researchers. “As encouraging as these results are, there remain many adolescents 13 years or older who have not yet received all the recommended vaccines,” authors write in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine.

More than half of 11- and 12-year-olds made a vaccination visit with the doctor, yet 20 percent didn't receive the recommended TD or TDaP shots and 61 percent didn't get the meningococcal vaccine they add.

Shah said recent outbreaks, such as the whooping cough epidemic that swept across California last year, show how important vaccines are. “We have had serious outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in the U.S…You have children dying from this,” he said.

Shah said efforts by health experts to tone down those baseless worries seem to have had an impact. At this point, he added, doctors seeing young patients should make sure they have all the recommended vaccines. Those are free of charge. Even children with no health insurance can get the vaccines at no cost, from doctors participating in the CDC's Vaccines for Children (VFC) program.

“Today’s report is reassuring because it means that most parents are protecting their young children from diseases that can cause widespread and sometimes severe harm,” said Anne Schuchat, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “We recommend vaccinations because they are one of the most effective, safest ways to keep children healthy.”

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


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