America’s uneven progress in vaccinations for children defies simple characterization. Sources like The Child Trends Data Bank have failed to detect any differences in vaccination rates by ethnicity or race. Although the media often focuses on anti-vaxxers like Jenny McCarthy, the fact is that the majority of people do still have their children vaccinated.
Urban vs. non-urban differences in vaccination rates range from small to statistically undetectable. Disparities by income, while small, have well-documented, however.
Vaccination in the U.S. began in 1800, when Benjamin Waterhouse, a professor at Harvard Medical School, gave his family the newly-invented smallpox vaccine. But the practice didn’t become widespread until more than 150 years later, when the landmark polio vaccine was approved for general use.
Between 1960 and 1984, vaccines for dozens of other diseases were developed and administered. Later, some shots were discontinued. Among these were the original, injected polio vaccine, which is now given orally.
From 1994 to 2004, the percentage of children receiving the CDC recommended vaccination course (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, flu, hepatitis, and chickenpox) increased from 69 to 83. The percentage for an even broader regimen increased from 66 to 77 from 2002 to 2006.
Yet, a more rigorous 2010 study tracked the number of “boosters” per disease and found that, predictably, few children got as many as recommended – 62 percent for the smaller course, and 59 percent for the larger. Those numbers have edged upward in recent years, entering 2012 at 76 and 72 percent, respectively.
Each of those ending dates marked the beginning of a plateau. Like so many other “ceilings” in public health, the 80 percent mark for comprehensive child vaccination has never been surpassed for long.
What Parents Need to Know
In the first six years of life, children are most vulnerable to disease. When it comes to giving parents the information they need, it’s hard to improve on what the CDC has already done. Their simple vaccination timelines can be easily reviewed and referenced by non professionals.
Here we summarized the CDCs main recommendations for 2014.
Vigilance in vaccination applies not just for each generation, but within each life. Until their 18th birthdays, kids should still be getting annual flu shots, along with boosters.