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Good news for young mothers.

The most recent survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that the United States lags behind 69 other countries in the percentage of children younger than age two who are adequately immunized. In many areas of the country, less than half of two-year-olds are fully immunized.

The number of measles cases alone has increased dramatically in recent years, with hundreds of unnecessary deaths. At the beginning of the decade, cases of pertussis (whooping cough) increased by 50 percent in just one year. Inadequate immunization in early childhood is responsible for serious disease outbreaks in young adulthood, as has been seen in the measles epidemics that have swept some college campuses in recent years.

Public health experts agree that access and education issues are two primary barriers to improving the immunization picture. For instance, too many uneducated mothers soon tire of repeatedly taking a protesting infant to a public clinic for the multiple vaccinations required in the first 18 months of life.

Combined vaccines for childhood disease have greatly reduced the number of individual injections required. The diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus combined vaccine (DPT) has been available since the 1940s; the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR) was introduced in the '60s. Nearly 30 years later, we now have the newest combination vaccine, Tetramune, adding to DPT a fourth vaccine against Hemophilus b, the most common cause of childhood meningitis.

Developed by Lederle-Praxis Biologics and licensed earlier this year by the FDA, Tetramune reduces from eight to four the number of injections a child requires by age two. It is administered at ages 2, 4, 6 and 15-18 months.

The Clinton administration seeks to improve the childhood immunization picture and hopes the new vaccine will be a significant factor in the process.
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Title Annotation:combined vaccinations help to prevent childhood illnesses
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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