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More Low-Income Kids Are Getting Vaccinated
Date:5/4/2009

hose living 133 percent below the poverty level and high-income households were those living 400 percent or more above the federal poverty level. The federal poverty level changes depending on family size, but as an example, in 1997, the federal poverty level for a family of 5 was $24,744, according to the study.

The study included more than 232,000 youngsters living in low-income households between 1995 and 2007.

The researchers found that timely immunizations were up for every vaccine type, except for Hib. Levels of immunization in low-income children remained unchanged for the Hib vaccine.

The gap in vaccinations between kids from low- and high-income families shrank for the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, hepatitis B immunization, and the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine. Differences between high- and low-income children's vaccination rates did not budge for the polio vaccine, and actually widened by 0.4 percent for the DTaP vaccine, according to the study.

"On the whole, low-income children are catching up," said Dr. Peter Belamarich, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital of Montefiore in New York City. "There's more work to do, but we're having success on the whole in increasing vaccination rates," he said.

Nevertheless, "parents should actively ask about their child's immunization status when they're in the doctor's office, and they should permit the pediatrician to administer whichever vaccines are due. There's no upper limit on the number of vaccinations a child can have in one visit," explained Belamarich.

Diamond said that providing access is key to improving these rates even further, and that education has to follow the access. If people don't realize that low- or no-cost vaccines are available, immunization rates won't go up, he pointed out.

"We need to ensure access and professional cooperation, and provide more outreach to the community," said Diamond.


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