Monica Gomez, Carrington College
Vaccination has come a long way in the United States in the past several decades, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) pointing out that immunization over the course of the last two decades has prevented 732,000 deaths. Many of these lives saved have been children, who tend to be more susceptible to potentially deadly infections due to their weaker immune systems.
Despite the clear evidence indicating that vaccines save lives, some parents nowadays in the U.S. are reluctant to vaccinate their children. Suspicious parents often cite concerns regarding autism and other disorders allegedly spread through vaccination, although these claims have been repeatedly debunked. Others simply forget to vaccinate their children early enough or don’t adhere to the recommended vaccination schedule.
Carrington College has developed a handy childhood vaccine checklist for parents that guides parents along their child’s vaccinations so as to maximize protection. Vaccinations are administered throughout childhood from birth (like the first dose of the hepatitis b vaccine) until age 18 (such as the annual influenza vaccine). The majority of the vaccines included in the recommended childhood vaccination schedule require multiple doses or booster shots.
While vaccinations rates in the United States are mostly high, some numbers are in decline in certain areas – which puts both vaccinated and unvaccinated children in danger.
Vaccination rates for polio are excellent, which perhaps explains why the disease is currently so rare in the U.S. According to most recent data, 93 percent of children between 19 and 35 months old receive vaccines for polio. This marks a slight decrease from 2012, however, when the World Health Organization reported a 94 percent immunization rate.
Measles, Mumps, and Rubella
More than 91 percent of children in the U.S. are vaccinated against measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), but figures vary significantly from one state to the next. For example, while 99.7 of Mississippi kindergarten students are administered the required two-dose MMR vaccine, this is only true for 82 percent of children in Colorado.
The chickenpox vaccine is one of the most common types of immunization in the U.S. While this highly contagious decease used to be widespread, it is now rare thanks to high vaccination rates. According to the CDC, 91 percent of children between the ages of 19 and 35 months receive this vaccine.
Influenza vaccination rates are low among both children and adults. Nearly half of those above the age of 6 months do not receive annual flu shots. However, vaccination rates are on the rise, especially among children. The U.S. influenza immunization rate in 2014 increased by 2.3 percent over the rate in 2013.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
The HPV vaccine protects children from HPV infection, which can lead to multiple types of cancer. About 14 million people are infected with HPV every year. In the U.S., 63 percent of young women and just 50 percent of young men have received at least one dose of the HPV vaccine. Dr. Noel Brewers tells the National Cancer Institute that the culprit behind this low vaccination rate is a failure on health care professionals’ part to appropriately convey the urgency of the HPV vaccine to adolescents and their parents because they are reluctant to talk about sex and associated diseases with their patients.
Vaccination rates are, on the whole, quite strong in the U.S., although significant improvement is still needed for the influenza and HPV vaccines. With greater awareness of the need for vaccines and the minimal risks they present, infection rates can be further reduced. Adhering to the recommended childhood vaccinations schedule is crucial to protecting children across the country.