New Analysis Finds Early Childhood Vaccination Rates Have Stalled

Washington, DC – Progress towards full immunization of young preschoolers has stalled since 2004, according to a Child Trends analysis of recently released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  The analysis finds that the proportion of children ages 19 to 35 months receiving the “combination series vaccine” (4:3:1:3) increased from 69 percent to 83 percent between 1994 and 2004, but remained at 82 percent in 2005 and 2006.


State-level estimates from the CDC of the percentage of children ages 19-35 months receiving the combination series vaccine in 2006 reveal:

  • The states with the highest percentages were Massachusetts (88.7 percent), Wisconsin (88.0 percent), and Connecticut (87.4 percent).
  • The states with the lowest percentages were Nevada (71.6 percent), Alaska (73.7 percent), and Louisiana (73.9 percent). 
  •  21 states had percentages lower than the national rate of 82.3 percent, while 29 states and the District of Columbia had higher percentages.  

The CDC recommends vaccinating children against most vaccine-preventable diseases by the time they are two years old because these diseases are more common and more deadly among infants and small children.   The CDC’s immunization schedule for children includes the vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP), polio, measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), hepatitis B, and varicella (chickenpox).  The DTP, polio, MMR, and Hib vaccines are collectively referred to as the combination series or 4:3:1:3 vaccine.


The Child Trends analysis also reveals significant differences by poverty status.  Children in families with incomes below the poverty level are somewhat less likely than those in families at or above the poverty level to receive the combination series vaccine (78 percent and 84 percent, respectively, in 2006).


The CDC has found that childhood immunization is an important step in preventing outbreaks of diseases and that vaccination protects not only the child receiving the vaccine, but also those in the child’s community.  Child Trends’ review of the research on immunizations shows that protecting children against severe illnesses also results in positive outcomes other than improved physical health, including the ability to attend school more regularly and the absence of increased family stress.


Child Trends’ analysis is based on the CDC’s National Immunization Survey.


Child Trends is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center that studies children from pregnancy to the transition to adulthood.  Its mission is to improve outcomes for children by providing research, data, and analysis to the people and institutions whose decisions and actions affect children.