WASHINGTON - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that vaccinations for America's minority children have reached record high levels and met or exceeded most of the 1996 national immunization goals. Vaccination levels are nearly the same for preschool children of all racial and ethnic groups, narrowing a gap that was estimated to be as wide as 26% a generation ago.
For children living at or above the poverty level, all of the 1996 national immunization goals were met or exceeded in the five racial and ethnic groups. However, vaccination coverage levels for children living below the poverty line were as much as 13% lower than the coverage levels for children living at or above the poverty line.
"These are compelling findings. We've shown that when Americans put their minds to it, and are equipped with adequate resources, gaps in health care for minority children can be narrowed," said Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala. "Although our immunization partners around the nation should be exhilarated by this progress, disparity continues. We must continue to reach out to our neediest families to ensure all children have equal access to life-saving vaccines."
In 1993, the Childhood Immunization Initiative (CII) was launched to increase the number of preschool children who receive vaccinations. The goal was to vaccinate at least 90% of U.S. children for most vaccines by 1996, and for all recommended vaccines by 2000.
According to the CDC's National Immunization Survey, the 1996 goals for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis vaccine (DTP) and hepatitis B vaccine were met or exceeded for African-American, Latino, American Indian/Alaskan Native and Asian/Pacific Islander children.
The goal for polio vaccines was met or exceeded for all groups except Latino and American Indian/Alaskan Native who were within one percentage point of the goal. For Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine all groups met or exceeded the 90% goal except Latinos, who were within one point of the 90% goal. The measles vaccine goal was exceeded for all except for Latino, African-American and American Indian/Alaskan Native children who were within three percentage points.
Among children living below the poverty level, the goal for hepatitis B vaccine was met in all five racial and ethnic groups. The DTP goal was met in all groups except Asian/Pacific Islander children. For individual vaccines, the coverage levels across the racial ethnic groups for these children were up to 13% lower than children living at or above the poverty level.
However, minority children still lag behind white children when overall vaccination rates are compared. While 79% of white children have received the full series by age 2, only 74% of African-American children and 71% of Hispanic children are fully vaccinated.
"The relatively small gaps in coverage for each vaccine among the racial/ethnic groups reflect positively on the nationwide efforts to increase vaccination levels. State and local health departments and many community and professional organizations have partnered to improve immunization levels among minority children," said David Satcher, MD, PhD, director of the CDC. "Each day in the United States, some 11,000 children are born. Parents and our immunization partners everywhere must continue their work to improve immunization levels."
The National Immunization Survey is the first national survey measuring vaccination coverage for five racial and ethnic groups and is the first national survey to report coverage for children of Latino, American Indian/Alaskan Native and Asian/Pacific Islander origin.
"Every parent wants the best for their children's health. These data tell us that we have reached a new milestone for public health - the virtual achievement of the 1996 goals for children in these five racial and ethnic groups," said Jose Cordero, MD, acting director of the CDC's National Immunization Program. "This is the first time, the CDC has reported national immunization levels by racial and ethnic category. The National Immunization Survey is a critical tool in monitoring public health status for children of all populations."
The CII was launched in August 1993 to increase and sustain infant immunization rates by: improving the quality and quantity of immunization services; reducing vaccine costs for parents; increasing community participation, education and partnerships; improving systems for monitoring diseases and vaccination; and improving vaccines and vaccine use.
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