By Frederik Joelving
NEW YORK (Reuters) - More and more American adolescents are getting recommended vaccines, according to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) out Monday.
The findings come on the heels of a report last week that toddler vaccinations are on the rise as well, suggesting public concerns over vaccine safety are waning.
"I think that is very good news," said Dr. Samir S. Shah, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, who was not linked to the work.
He said scientists and health officials have ramped up their efforts to promote vaccines and explain their risks and benefits.
The shots can cause swelling and soreness at the injection site, as well as mild fever in some cases. But serious side effects such as severe allergic reactions are very rare -- less than one in a million, experts say.
And in late August, a review done by the prestigious Institute of Medicine found no evidence that vaccinations cause autism or diabetes, which some parents and a few researchers had worried might be the case.
"Parents are also becoming involved and participating in helping debunk some of the myths surrounding vaccines," Shah told Reuters Health.
The new study, by Shannon Stokley and colleagues at the CDC in Atlanta, is based on more than 20,000 teens who agreed to let their doctors send their vaccination information to the researchers.
It shows DT or DTaP vaccinations -- which protect against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough -- climbed from 34 percent among children born in 1991 to 68 percent among those born in 1996.
Meningococcal vaccinations jumped from eight percent to 50 percent for kids born in 1993 and 1996, respectively. For girls, receipt of the human papillomavirus vaccine -- which helps protect against genital warts and cervical cancer -- was 11 percent for those born in 1994 and 31 percent for those born in 1996.
But there is still room for improvement, according to the CDC researchers.
"As encouraging as these results are, there remain many adolescents 13 years or older who have not yet received all the recommended vaccines," they write in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine.
More than half of 11- and 12-year-olds made a vaccination visit with the doctor, yet 20 percent didn't receive the recommended TD or TDaP shots and 61 percent didn't get the meningococcal vaccine.
Shah said recent outbreaks, such as the whooping cough epidemic that swept across California last year, show how important vaccines are.
"We have had serious outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in the U.S.," he said. "You have children dying from this."
Much of the fear that has caused parents to skip recommended shots grew out of a 1998 report that linked 12 cases of autism to the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.
Although the report has since been discredited and retracted, it sparked widespread fears of vaccines, followed by an uptick in disease outbreaks.
Shah said efforts by health experts to tone down those baseless worries seem to have had an impact. At this point, he added, doctors seeing young patients should make sure they have all the recommended vaccines. Those are free of charge, although the doctor's visit is not. Even children with no health insurance can get the vaccines at no cost, from doctors participating in the CDC's Vaccines for Children (VFC) program.
The CDC has more information on vaccines for teens and preteens at http://cdc.gov/vaccines/who/teens/index.html.
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/DJa42 Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, online September 5, 2011.