- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 14, 2006

Racial gaps in U.S. childhood vaccination rates closed in 2005 for the first time in 10 years, with black youngsters catching up with the immunization levels of other children, a new federal report finds.

Results of the 2005 National Immunization Survey (NIS) found “no statistically significant” differences in vaccination rates among blacks, whites, Asians and Hispanic children ages 19 months to 35 months, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Overall, 76.1 percent of youngsters in that age group “have all their vaccinations,” Dr. Anne Shuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters in a telephone briefing yesterday.

Dr. Shuchat said the correcting of a racial disparity in immunization rates was driven by “an impressive increase” in vaccinations of young black children. In 2002, she said, 61.7 percent of blacks were fully vaccinated. Last year, the proportion was 76.3 percent.

“We’re very excited about closing the gap between racial and ethnic groups,” she said. “Immunization is at or near record-high levels.”

Last year more than three-quarters of children in all racial groups received the entire series of shots against whooping cough, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza type B, recommended for children ages 19 months to 35 months, stated the findings, also published in the current issue of the CDC’s Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report.

In addition to the 76.3 percent vaccination coverage rate for blacks, specific rates for other groups were 79.5 percent for multiracial children; 77.1 percent for Asians; 76 percent for whites, and 75.6 percent for Hispanics.

Measles outbreaks in the late 1980s and early 1990s spurred efforts to eliminate what were long-standing racial and ethnic differences in pediatric immunization rates. A major development toward this goal occurred in 1994 with the creation of the Vaccines for Children Program (VCP), which paid for immunizations of poor children who were uninsured or underinsured.

In addition to VCP, CDC has assisted in developing and providing education programs and press campaigns for both black and Spanish-speaking parents to raise awareness of the need to have their children immunized.

“We’ve been working hard with many partners to ensure that all children have access to recommended vaccines, and these results show we’ve made significant progress,” Dr. Shuchat said.



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