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1 in 4 U.S. Toddlers Improperly Vaccinated
Date:4/29/2008

years, the success of the vaccination program has been measured by whether or not children received the required number of doses.

"[But] the official recommendations for vaccination include more than just number of doses," said Elizabeth Luman, lead author of the study and an epidemiologist at the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases in Atlanta. They also include specific age recommendations and often multiple doses at different time intervals.

For this study, researchers looked at vaccination histories for more than 17,500 U.S. children aged 19 months to 35 months.

An estimated 72 percent of children in this age group finished the standard vaccination series. That was 9 percentage points lower than if coverage was based on counting doses only, the researchers noted.

Nineteen percent of children were missing one or more doses of vaccines; 8 percent had received an "invalid" dose, meaning it was given while the child was too young or too close to the previous dose.

About 3 percent of the sample had their last hepatitis B vaccine too early (before six months). Some also received their measles vaccine while they were still protected by their mother's antibodies. Another 3 percent received serial doses of one vaccine too close together.

"If children receive vaccines too close together or too early, they're not as likely to be protected, and if you have a lot of that, then you're more likely to have disease outbreaks," Luman said.

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."

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