October 17, 2016
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Despite stable immunization rates, vaccination strategies needed for disadvantaged youth

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Vaccination coverage remained high among U.S. children aged 19 to 35 months; however, strategies to increase vaccination in children living in poverty should be implemented, according to recent data in MMWR.

“Sustained high coverage with recommended vaccinations among children has kept many vaccine-preventable diseases at low levels in the United States,” Holly A. Hill, MD, PhD, from the immunization services division in the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, and colleagues wrote. “Although coverage was high in some groups, opportunities exist to continue to address disparities.”

Hill and colleagues evaluated data from the 2015 National Immunization Survey to determine vaccination coverage among children by age 2 years. They also analyzed differences in vaccine coverage by race/ethnicity, poverty status and urbanicity.

The results showed that more than 90% of children had received vaccines against polio, hepatitis B, measles, mumps and rubella and varicella on a timely vaccination schedule. However, infants and children living under the federal poverty level had lower rates of coverage for most vaccinations.

The largest disparities were in coverage with rotavirus vaccine, pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, Haemophilus influenza type b vaccine and the diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis vaccine. In addition, black, Hispanic, non-Hispanic Asian and non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native children had higher vaccination rates with the hepatitis B birth dose than white children. Vaccination coverage in 2015 differed by as much as 38.1% across the states. Coverage with the combined seven-vaccine series ranged from 64.4% in Virginia to 80.6% in Connecticut.

“More widespread implementation of evidence-based interventions is needed to bring about continued improvement in vaccination coverage among infants and young children in the United States,” the researchers wrote. “Financial barriers to vaccine purchase itself are addressed for children living below poverty level by the [Vaccines for Children] program and vaccine-related stipulations in the [Affordable Care Act].

“Improved access might be achieved through establishment of vaccination programs in child care centers and in WIC settings.” – by Kate Sherrer

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial relationships.