Teen immunization rates concern health officials
September 2, 2012
NEW — 6 a.m. Sept. 2, 2012
Immunization rates among Washington teenagers improved for some vaccines, but held steady and dropped slightly for others, state health officials announced Aug. 30.
The information comes from the just-released 2011 National Immunization Survey. More children between the ages of 13 and 17 years are vaccinated against serious diseases than in previous years, teen immunization rates remain below state goals.
“The whooping cough epidemic reminds us that it’s vital for teens to get immunized on time,” state Secretary of Health Mary Selecky said in a statement. “Immunizing teens is as important as immunizing young children — it protects the teens and everyone around them, especially babies who are too young for vaccination. Every teen should be up-to-date with all recommended vaccines.”
Despite some gains in teen immunization rates, the survey shows Washington is not meeting state and national vaccination goals, such as vaccinating 90 percent of teens with the vaccine for chickenpox, varicella, and 80 percent coverage against whooping cough, or pertussis, human papillomavirus and meningococcal disease.
“Some diseases, such as chickenpox, are more dangerous for older teens than for younger kids,” Selecky continued. “Missing or delaying even one vaccine puts them at risk for catching and spreading disease. Parents should get their teenagers immunized when the teen sees a health care provider for sports physicals, injuries, or mild illnesses.”
The percentage of teens receiving the whooping cough vaccine, Tdap, improved from 71 percent in 2010 to 75 percent last year; the national average is 78 percent.
The statewide whooping cough epidemic continues to be a serious problem. State health officials have documented almost 3,800 cases reported so far in 2012 — the most in 70 years.
Washington continues to rank near the top among first-dose HPV vaccination rates for females in the nation. However, the estimated rate decreased from 69 percent to 67 percent, and only 40 percent of teen girls got all three doses needed for full protection.
For the first time, the national survey included HPV vaccination rates for males — 9 percent got one dose of vaccine compared to the national average of 8 percent.
The state offers the recommended vaccines at no-cost for patients up to age 19 through healthcare providers participating in the Childhood Vaccine Program. Some provide may charge for office visits or vaccination fees.