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Federal Health Officials Extol High U.S. Vaccination Rate

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"It's not just one thing. ... It's a lot of little things," Shalala says.

Just last month a report issued by the Institute of Medicine for the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee warned that the nation's immunization system was "unstable," particularly in its efforts to reach the poor.

"If the 80% [immunized] is a result of still having those large, much more poorly immunized populations in those pockets, then that's not a good situation," Bernard Guyer, MD, chair of the report panel, tells WebMD.

Still others fear that the high immunization rate itself could be bad news, at least in some cases. Jane Orient, MD, executive director of the politically conservative Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, says public health officials are using coercive tactics to get children vaccinated, ranging from requiring the shots before school enrollment to denying families welfare payments if their children aren't vaccinated.

Orient also disputes the notion of giving hepatitis B shots to newborns, because the infection is rare among the young. However, she concedes that vaccinations for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis are still necessary.

"We should go back to the idea where it was a matter of the doctor making a recommendation to the parents on an individual basis," Orient tells WebMD.

 

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