Vaccination Data Highlight Needs for Strengthened Efforts
Tracking rates of childhood vaccination across the United States, data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Friday shows concerning trends, persisting gaps, and missed opportunities to use one of the greatest tools modern medicine offers to prevent disease and protect public health.
While showing that vaccinations remains routine for most children, the data also show a gradual climb in the numbers of children who reach their second birthday without ever having received a vaccination. In addition, the data highlight disparities, with children who are uninsured or who depend on Medicaid for access to health coverage showing the lowest rates of vaccination coverage, particularly in receiving follow-up or booster immunizations.
The consequences of these gaps can be deadly and, because falling vaccination rates raise outbreak risks, they have the potential to affect public health on a wide scale. Depressed immunization rates already have been associated with recent outbreaks of diseases including measles. The data indicate critical needs for improved understanding of barriers to vaccination access and coverage, as well for strengthened outreach, communication, and resources. While vaccines are among the most rigorously tested and observed public health interventions, intensive public education on their safety and efficacy remains a necessary component to ensuring broad uptake. Expanded access to healthcare coverage is pivotal to ensuring that children receive essential health services that include routine immunizations. While the Vaccination for Children program, which provides immunizations to children in the US who are unable to afford them, has saved nearly $259 billion in direct medical costs in the last 25 years, the data indicate that eligible families remain unaware, or unable to access its benefits. In addition, robust support for CDC programs supporting vaccine supply chains, clinical services, and education efforts will be crucial.
Vaccines prevent an estimated 42,000 child deaths each year in the United States, as well as billions of dollars in direct medical costs and even more in total societal costs. To realize those benefits, the need for the strengthened efforts is immediate, and essential.