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U.S. child immunizations at record high

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WASHINGTON, Jul 29, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- Immunization rates for U.S. children are at an all-time high, health officials said Thursday, stressing continual efforts for the upcoming flu season.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates nearly 79 percent of U.S. children received a complete series of vaccinations in 2003, which help prevent against diseases including influenza, hepatitis A and B, and pneumonia.

"This is a record year for immunization coverage in the United States," Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the CDC, said at a news conference. "But we cannot afford to lose our vigilance in protecting out children from these (preventable) diseases."

Vaccinations for young children -- in particular those between 6 months and 23 months of age -- can prevent 12 childhood diseases, up to 35,000 deaths a year and 10.5 million disease cases, Gerberding said.

The CDC is not anticipating a flu shot shortage similar to that experienced last year during a severe influenza outbreak, she said, but a surplus is being stocked just in case.

"These numbers do show a success, but this success has to be maintained through parents, health care providers and immunization programs," Dr. Steve Cochi, acting director of the National Immunization Program, told United Press International. "You can't let your guard down."

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.

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