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Vaccine Coverage High in U.S., But...

159 cases reported so far this year in unvaccinated people

continued...

The Vaccines for Children Program, launched in 1993 to rectify a crisis of missed opportunities, makes vaccines available to most children and is credited with the high rates of vaccine coverage among America's children.

Today's local measles outbreaks represent a very different dynamic, Schuchat said. "Instead of our system missing opportunities to vaccinate young children, in some communities, people have been rejecting opportunities to be vaccinated," she said.

The national measles outbreak of 1989 to '91 that led to the creation of the Vaccines for Children Program was deadly. "During those years, about 55,000 cases of measles were reported in the United States, and 123 people died from measles," Schuchat said. "Hardest hit were unvaccinated preschool-aged children."

The current measles outbreaks aren't at the crisis level of 1989, but that could change quickly, Schuchat said.

Measles is common around the world, and continues to be imported to the United States, posing a threat to unvaccinated people. "All of the cases of measles reported in the United States in 2013 were associated with importations from other countries," Schuchat said. "Half of these cases originated from Europe."

The CDC recommends that children get a measles/mumps/rubella vaccine at 12 months and again at 4 to 6 years of age.

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