Public health officials have been promoting a new class of vaccines, called the Pediatric Immunization Schedule, for some time, hoping to boost immunization rates among children and adults. But, the vaccines took off after Dr. Julie Gerberding, then director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, realized they worked well for children between the ages of 5 and 11. Dr. Gerberding, who left the CDC last month, has frequently cited research showing that the vaccines prevent a number of diseases. Now, Dr. Walensky, who heads the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said that using the new schedule is helping to lift the immunization rate, too.
Starting this month, for example, a new vaccine, which is more than a decade old, will be available to children ages 5 to 11 for the first time. Doctors can now vaccinate children against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Haemophilus influenzae type b, and measles. Previously, immunization against these vaccines had only been administered as part of routine childhood vaccines. Dr. Walensky said that there was a misunderstanding in the past, in which the CDC was seen as recommending vaccines that older children should get. He said the revisions to the vaccine schedule were an attempt to put Americans “in control of our own destiny.”
Dr. Walensky said there was a misunderstanding in the past, in which the CDC was seen as recommending vaccines that older children should get.
“We are more challenging on expanding the immunization for older children,” he said. Dr. Walensky added that early development and inclusion in the schedule may have helped to lower immunization rates in children older than 11. “Because we are right in the midst of epidemics, it’s important to make this change,” he said. “It’s one of the things we can do right now that can have a profound effect.”
After the vaccine schedule was revised in 2013, Dr. Gerberding said the agency had seen a sharp increase in children receiving the vaccine. The CDC estimates that some 100,000 deaths have been prevented in the United States since the schedule was changed.