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Children's Vaccines Health Center

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

159 cases reported so far this year in unvaccinated people
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Schuchat said PCV and DTaP booster shots are essential at age 2, and far too few children get them. DTaP protects against whooping cough.

"[Still], the percentage of children who get no vaccines remains low," Schuchat said. "Only 0.8 percent of children in the survey had received no vaccines at all."

Among the unvaccinated, 79 percent had philosophical objections to the vaccine. Typically, these objections concern fears about vaccine safety or adherence to religious beliefs. Theories that vaccines can lead to autism, however, have been widely discounted by scientists.

"Clusters of people with like-minded beliefs leading them to forgo vaccines can be susceptible to outbreaks when measles virus is imported," Schuchat said.

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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