CDC: Vaccination Rates for Toddlers Rising

Survey Also Shows Slight Uptick in Children Who Received No Vaccinations Last Year

By Brenda Goodman
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Sept. 1, 2011 -- After dipping in 2009, national vaccination rates for toddlers increased slightly or held steady at high levels last year, according to a new report from the CDC.

Results of the 2010 National Immunization Survey for children aged 19-35 months are published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The survey found that at least 90% of toddlers across the U.S. are getting recommended vaccines to protect against diseases like chickenpox, measles, polio, bacterial meningitis, pneumonia, and hepatitis B.

And while many health disparities exist in preventive medicine, vaccination for kids doesn't appear to be one of them. The survey shows that toddlers arebeing vaccinated at similarly high rates regardless of race or ethnicity.

Increases in Measles, Whooping Cough, Hib Vaccination Rates

The number of young children getting at least one dose of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine rose from 90% in 2009 to 91.5% in 2010.

And more toddlers got all four of the doses of the combination vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP) that they're supposed to have by 18 months of age.

That was particularly heartening to health officials, who are battling some of the worst outbreaks of measles and whooping cough (pertussis) seen in years.

"The outbreaks we're seeing now just serve as a reminder that we need to keep children and teens vaccinated," says Lance E. Rodewald, MD, a pediatrician who is director of the CDC's Immunization Services Division.

Another bright spot, Rodewald said, was a nearly 7% increase in the number of young children being vaccinated against Haemophilus influenzae type B(Hib) bacteria, which can cause a range of severe illnesses.

"When I was a physician in a pediatric emergency department, every month, we would see 2-3 babies come through with Hib. It was a leading cause of death and deafness," Rodewald says. When the vaccine was introduced, "the disease basically melted away," he says.

The jump in Hib vaccination rates from 2009 to 2010 likely reflected a nationwide catchup in recommended booster shots that had been suspended during a two-year shortage of that vaccine.

Number of Unvaccinated Children Also Rises

The rate of unvaccinated children, although still low, appeared to rise slightly last year from 0.6% to 0.7% of the 17,000 toddlers in the survey, or 1,190 children. The number was 0.4% in 2006.

Because it's such a small percentage, and a number that's still well below the CDC's goal of having no more than 1% of children unvaccinated in the U.S., Rodewald says it is hard to say what the increase might mean, though he added that it was being "closely watched."

"Parents want to do the right thing for their children, and they have a lot of questions about vaccines," Rodewald says. "But doctors have been able to answer those questions. Confidence in vaccines has stayed high."


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SOURCES: Black, C. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Sept. 2, 2011.News release, CDC.Lance E. Rodewald, MD, director, Immunization Services Division, CDC, Atlanta. ©2011 WebMD, LLC. All Rights Reserved.