The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), in a revised policy statement, says increasing immunization coverage for children, teens, and young adults should be promoted more aggressively to achieve better immunization rates.
The AAP says data from the 2007 National Immunization Survey indicates that about 90% of children between 19 months and 35 months old have received recommended doses of most vaccines.
However, the group also reports that maintaining and improving the proper levels of vaccination compliance is a challenge for pediatricians due to “systemic problems in the vaccine delivery system” and in the system for payment for vaccines, among other things.
The AAP says renewed emphasis on accepted guidelines is needed because pockets of under-immunized kids are found throughout the U.S. Immunization rates for adolescents continue to lag behind the goals set by the Healthy People 2010 program, a federally supported national effort that sets out nearly 500 objectives for improving the health of Americans, according to the AAP.
The organization says it is encouraging health care professionals to implement reminder systems for patients about immunization guidelines. It also says doctors and others should look for more opportunities to provide immunizations.
The new guideline notes that the AAP issued a statement in 1977 calling for universal immunization of all children for whom vaccines were indicated. It followed with policy statements in 1995 and again in 2003, encouraging parents and doctors to follow immunization guidelines.
Roadblocks to Effective Immunzation
Despite improvements, challenges to immunization have cropped up.
- An increase in new vaccines and new vaccine combinations.
- A dramatic increase in vaccine cost and a lack of adequate payment procedures.
- Unanticipated manufacturing and delivery problems, which have caused shortages.
- The rise of a public anti-vaccination movement that uses the Internet as well as standard media outlets to promote its position, which is “wholly unsupported by any scientific evidence” linking vaccines with autism and other childhood conditions.
The new policy statement calls for doctors to work individually and collectively at the state, local, and national levels to make sure that children eligible for immunizations should get them, and on time.
Also, doctors and health agencies such as the CDC “must communicate effectively with parents to maximize their understanding of the overall safety of vaccines.”
Some organizations that have attempted to link vaccines and health problems like autism provide information that is not based on science, but the publicity about their claims has frightened untold numbers of parents, the new statement says.
Misinformation about immunizations needs to be “vigorously” countered through a public information campaign to minimize the influence of frightening allegations that have been promoted, and apparently believed by many people, for a number of years, the AAP says.