Proportion of Infants Immunized Is Declining, C.D.F. Study Finds

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A declining percentage of preschool-age children are receiving the vaccines they need to ward off common diseases, a child-advocacy group has found.

According to a report by the Children's Defense Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based group, general levels of immunization declined in some instances, and at best showed no improvement, between 1980 and 1985. According to the report, the percentage of 2-year-olds fully immunized against polio, measles, rubella, diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus declined from 1980-85. Polio immunization rates dropped from 80.7 percent to 76.7 percent, and the proportion of 2-year-olds who received rubella vaccines dropped from 83.2 percent to 77.3 percent.

As a result, the group concluded, the nation will not meet the Surgeon General's goal of having 90 percent of all children receive a basic series of immunizations by age 2.

One reason for the decline, according to the report, is that federal funding for vaccinations has not kept up with the skyrocketing costs of vaccines. The cost of the combined measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine, for example, jumped from $2.62 per dose in 1979 to $8.47 per dose in 1986.

In fiscal 1979, the study said, the government spent $25 million for417.4 million doses of vaccine. Although federal funding rose to $45- million in fiscal 1986, the report stated, that sum bought only 16.2- million vaccine doses.

At the same time, the report said, the number of poor and uninsured children--those who would be the most likely to use publicly funded health-care programs--has increased dramatically. The number of poor children under 6 has increased from 3.4 million in 1979 to 4.8 million in 1986. Meanwhile, the number of uninsured children jumped by more than 16 percent between 1982 and 1985, the report said.

Excise Tax Approved

In a related development, the Congress last month approved an excise tax on each dose of four vaccines as a way of compensating children injured by immunizations. The compensation plan was adopted in 1986; lawmakers finally added a funding mechanism--placing a tax of up to several dollars on each dose of vaccine--in its omnibus spending bill for 1988.

"Who is Watching Our Children's Health? The Immunization Status of American Children" is available for $3.00 from the cdf, 122 C Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001.--ef

Vol. 07, Issue 15 & 16

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