With so much negative news about what's wrong in U.S. healthcare, some positive word came from federal health officials today: Immunization rates against childhood diseases are rising and have reached record highs.
In 10 categories of vaccines tracked by the National Immunization Survey in 1999 and 2003 -- including DTP, polio virus, MMR, hepatitis B, PCV and varicella -- the estimated vaccine coverage among children aged 19 months to 35 months increased in all 10.
HHS hailed the "significant increases in rates of immunization for chicken pox and pneumococcal pneumonia, the two most recent additions to the childhood immunization schedule."
Administrations of one dose or more of vaccine against the varicella-zoster virus that causes chicken pox rose from 57.5% in 1999 to 84.8% in 2003. The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (pneumonia) was administered to an estimated 40.9% of children in 2002; the percentage rose to 68.1% in 2003.
But the report also pinpointed wide variations in immunization rates between the states, indicating there's plenty of room for improvement.
"A substantial number of children in the United States still aren't adequately protected from vaccine-preventable diseases," said Julie Gerberding, M.D., director or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a news release today in Washington, where healthcare leaders gathered to kick off a national public outreach campaign in August.
"The suffering or death of even one individual from a vaccine-preventable disease is an unnecessary human tragedy," she said. "Let us renew our efforts during National Immunization Awareness Month."