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Nation's Teen Vaccination Coverage Increasing

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Vaccine coverage rates for the nation's preteens and teens are increasing, but nationally, rates remain low for the vaccines specifically recommended for preteens, according to 2008 estimates released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Vaccination coverage for teens is moving up, but much work remains," said Melinda Wharton, M.D., Deputy Director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. "We have the most room for improvement for the vaccines that are recommended at 11 or 12 years of age, and for making sure that teens who are not immune to chickenpox receive the vaccine as recommended."

The National Immunization Survey (NIS) estimates the proportion of teens aged 13 through 17 years who have received six recommended vaccines by the time they are surveyed. Three of these are recommended to be given at age 11 or 12 years: the tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis vaccine (Tdap), the meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4), and, for girls, the human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV4). If missed at this age, the vaccines can be given in the teen years. The survey also covers three other vaccines, which are recommended to be given earlier in life: measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR), hepatitis B vaccine (HepB), and varicella (chickenpox) vaccine. Preteens and teens should get all recommended doses of these vaccines if they missed them when they were younger. All doses are counted, no matter when they were received.

The survey found that, compared to 2007, there was a substantial increase in the percentage of teens who had received the recommended vaccines. Specifically:

* Coverage went up about 10 percentage points for a dose of Tdap and a dose of MCV4, reaching about 40 percent for each vaccine.

* Coverage went up about 12 percentage points for girls who received at least one dose of HPV4, to about 37 percent, and coverage for the recommended 3 doses of HPV4 was about 18 percent.

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* Fifteen percent more teens without a history of varicella received the recommended two doses of varicella vaccine, but coverage is only about 34 percent. Coverage rose about 6 percent for one dose of varicella vaccine, to about 82 percent.

* For the first time, Healthy People 2010 Goals of 90 percent coverage for 13- through 15-year-olds were met for the recommended two doses of MMR and three doses of HepB.

* Fourteen states and the District of Columbia had greater than 50 percent coverage for one or more of the vaccines recommended at age 11 or 12. In other states, coverage was lower.

* Differences were observed among racial/ethnic groups and by poverty status, including higher coverage for HPV4 among Hispanic females compared with whites, and higher coverage among teens living in poverty compared with those living at or above the poverty level. Blacks had lower coverage than whites for Tdap, and fewer were protected from varicella.

"Adding new vaccines for preteens starting in 2005 has been challenging," said Dr. Wharton. "Before then, this group didn't have any vaccines recommended just for them."

Dr. Wharton encourages parents to talk with their child's healthcare provider to find out when to come in for recommended check-ups. "That way, we can be sure preteens and teens receive not only recommended vaccinations but other very important preventive services, too," said Dr. Wharton.

Dr. Wharton also encourages families who may need help paying for vaccines to ask their healthcare provider about the Vaccines for Children Program, which provides free vaccines to many groups of children whose families may not be able to afford them.