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Growing Number of U.S. Kids Not Getting Needed Vaccinations
Date:8/31/2007

'Working poor' families at risk of disease outbreaks, experts warn

FRIDAY, Aug. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Immunization programs in the United States have been remarkably successful, virtually eliminating diseases like measles and polio.

But experts are worried that cracks could be appearing in the public health system that would allow outbreaks of disease to occur even though vaccines are readily available.

That's because a sizable segment of the population -- the working poor -- makes too much money to qualify for federally funded vaccinations but has health insurance so meager that it won't cover some or any immunizations or booster shots. This is particularly true of new vaccines, the experts say.

As many as 2.1 million American children aren't getting timely vaccinations because of holes in the public health system, according to Amy Pisani, executive director of Every Child By Two: The Carter/Bumpers Campaign for Early Immunization of Every Child By Two. The campaign, co-founded by former First Lady Roslynn Carter, works with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct educational programs for health-care providers.

"All these vaccines are being recommended but with hardly any funding whatsoever," Pisani said. "I foresee outbreaks."

Some experts believe those warnings will fall flat for some parents who desperately want to protect their children but can't afford to. There's no doubt that immunization has led to some of modern medicine's greatest triumphs over disease, those experts say.

"Overall, the vaccine program has been remarkably successful," said Dr. Joseph Bocchini, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Committee on Infectious Diseases and chief of pediatric infectious disease at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, in Shreveport. "There has been a significant reduction in cases, as high as 99 percent in some diseases."

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