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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

CDC: 1 in 4 US Children Not Protected Against Preventable Disease


More than 20 percent of the nation’s two-year-olds are not fully immunized against infectious diseases to which they are especially vulnerable.
New research has been released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that shows that 20 percent of America's children are not getting the Immunizations needed to be protected and stop the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases.

According to Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, there are now vaccines to protect children against 15 diseases before age two. Despite that, more than 20 percent of the nation’s two-year-olds are not fully immunized against infectious diseases to which they are especially vulnerable.

She goes on to say, "A substantial number of children in the United States still aren't adequately protected from vaccine-preventable diseases. The suffering or death of even one child from a vaccine-preventable disease is an unnecessary human tragedy."

The lead investigator of the study, Elizabeth Luman of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, says that immunizations are, "important for both the health of the child and the health of the public."

She goes on to point out that the recent measles outbreaks in California and Arizona has been mostly caused by people who have not been vaccinated at all and that have not complied with the appropriate timing and age recommendations of vaccine doses.

"Vaccination at the wrong age or the wrong interval is not a major danger from the perspective of eventual immunity induced by the vaccine," said Dr. Michael Pichichero, professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

"The public health issue is the lack of full protection from a disease until the vaccination series is completed. … The recent various outbreaks of measles, mumps and other vaccine-preventable diseases brings attention to the risks parents need to know they are accepting."

The study and those involved in the study assert that much of the reason for so many children not being properly immunized could be the complicated schedule that has to maintained to get these vaccines at the right time because they become ineffective to stopping infection or spread if the shots are gotten too early, too late or too close together.

Dr. Robert Frenck, who is a professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital and a committee member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on infectious diseases, points out another reason why parents might not be as vigilant in making sure their children are protected from preventable diseases.

One reason for lack of strict adherence to the vaccine schedule may be a fading consciousness among today's parents of what these immunizations are protecting children against. Frenck said he remembers seeing a childhood friend in an iron lung, the result of polio.

"It scared me to death," he said. "Kids these days, and probably most adults, don't even known what an iron lung is -- and that's because of immunization."

So far, smallpox has been completely eradicated from the planet thanks to immunizations, while great gains have been made with measles and polio.


In this day and age diseases like smallpox are rarely even spoken about, yet before the vaccine was created for smallpox, half those infected died from the disease and those that survived were seriously maimed, through severe scarring of the skin with deep pock marks, blindness and infertility.

(Man with smallpox. Public Health Images Library- Photo CDC)

In was the development of the smallpox vaccine that eradicated the disease. There is no specific treatment for smallpox disease, and the only prevention is vaccination.


Polio is a viral disease that can damage the nervous system and cause paralysis. Since polio immunization has become widespread in the United States, cases of polio are rare. However, polio remains a problem in many parts of the world.

In 1952, there were 21,000 paralytic cases of polio reported in the United States.

At one time poliovirus infection occurred throughout the world. Transmission of wild poliovirus was interrupted in the United States in 1979, or possibly earlier. A polio eradication program conducted by the Pan American Health Organization led to elimination of polio in the Western Hemisphere in 1991. The Global Polio Eradication Program has dramatically reduced poliovirus transmission throughout the world. In 2005, only 1,948 confirmed cases of polio were reported globally and polio was endemic in six countries.

Although I have addressed just two vaccine preventable diseases CDC has a full list diseases to which there are vaccines to protect against.

We live in an age where some of the diseases listed are a distant memory we read about in history books or hear about from our older relatives, but because vaccines were created to help eradicate some of those diseases, many of us have never actually seen what these diseases can do, nor do we have direct memories of the massive outbreaks which throughout history have killed millions.

You can find out more about vaccines and immunizations at the CDC, including schedules, answers to some basic questions as well as worries and concerns about vaccines and everything you need to know about vaccine preventable diseases.