A Snapshot of US Children's Vaccination Rates

National vaccination coverage levels high for some diseases but lower for others

(RxWiki News) The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend several vaccines for children to prevent infectious diseases. These diseases range from measles and whooping cough to polio and meningitis.

A recent report from the CDC revealed that US children's vaccination rates met federal goals for four of the recommended vaccines. These included the vaccine that protects against measles.

However, for five other vaccines, the vaccination coverage failed to meet federal goals. Among these vaccines was the one that prevents whooping cough, or pertussis.

Recent pertussis outbreaks have been increasing after a 40-year high in 2012.

"Ask your doctor about the CDC immunization schedule."

This report, authored by a team led by Carla Black, PhD, at the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, includes the results of the National Immunization Survey.

This telephone survey monitors vaccination coverage for children aged 19 months to 3 years old. It covers 16,916 children born between January 2009 and May 2011.

The researchers compared the coverage for different vaccines among the children to the federal goals for vaccination coverage.

The federal goals for immunization coverage include having 90 percent of US children vaccinated with the following:

  • at least one dose of the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine
  • at least three doses of the hepatitis B vaccine
  • at least three doses of the polio vaccine
  • at least one dose of the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine
  • at least four doses of the DTaP (diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis/whooping cough) vaccine
  • at least four doses of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV)
  • the full series of the Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) vaccine

The survey revealed that federal goals were met for US children's vaccination coverage with the following vaccines:

  • 90.8 percent of children had at least one dose of the MMR.
  • 92.8 percent of children had at least three doses of the polio vaccine.
  • 89.7 percent of children had at least 3 doses of the hepatitis B vaccine.
  • 90.2 percent of children had at least one dose of the chickenpox vaccine.

In addition, the percentage of babies receiving the first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine at birth, as recommended, increased from 68.6 percent in 2011 to 71.6 percent in 2012.

The federal targets were not met among US children for the following vaccines:

  • Only 82.5 percent of children had received at least four doses of the DTaP.
  • Only 80.9 percent of children had received the full series of Hib.
  • Only 81.9 percent of children had received at least four doses of PCV.

Additionally, the federal target for at least two doses of the hepatitis A vaccine is 85 percent coverage, but only 53 percent of children had received these shots.

The federal goal for the rotavirus vaccine is 80 percent coverage, but only 68.6 percent of children were immunized against this gastrointestinal illness that can cause diarrhea.

Fewer than one percent of children had not received any vaccines at all.

The researchers also determined that families living below the federal poverty level were less likely to be fully vaccinated.

The coverage for these families, compared to the national results, was 6.5 percentage points lower for the four doses of the DTaP, 7.6 percentage points lower for the Hib series and 8.6 percentage points lower for the four doses of PCV.

It was also 6 percentage points lower for the two doses of hepatitis A vaccine and 9.5 percentage points lower for the rotavirus vaccine for children living below the federal poverty line.

The researchers noted that high levels of vaccination coverage are necessary to reduce the risk of disease outbreaks.

When more individuals are vaccinated in a community, it's less likely that an infectious disease can spread through the community and infect even those who are not vaccinated.

This phenomenon is called "herd immunity." High vaccination coverage among all those who can be vaccinated therefore offers some level of protection to immune-compromised individuals and those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.

Although these numbers represent national coverage rates, the researchers noted that coverage by individual states varied considerably.

"High vaccination coverage among preschool-aged children has resulted in historically low levels of most vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States," the researchers wrote. "Clusters of unvaccinated children leave communities vulnerable to outbreaks of disease."

They also noted that recent outbreaks of measles reveal why it's important to keep vaccination coverage levels high.

"The continued occurrence of measles outbreaks among unvaccinated persons in the United States underscores the importance of maintaining uniformly high coverage to prevent transmission of imported disease," the researchers wrote.

The report was published September 13 in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). The report was internally funded.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 13, 2013