U.S. announces vaccination program Foundation to give $9 million to cities

December 10, 1991|By Knight-Ridder News Service

WASHINGTON -- Responding to a surge in childhood diseases, the surgeon general announced an ambitious immunization program yesterday that would have 90 percent of all children under age 2 immunized by 2000.

To help reach the goal, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a health care philanthropy in Princeton, N.J., said it would donate a total of $9 million to 20 cities by next spring to set up systems to track children from birth to school age to ensure that they got their required shots.

"Although we know in this country that immunization levels are 97 [percent] to 98 percent at the time of school entry, surveys have shown that they can be as low as 11 percent among 2-year-olds in some inner-city populations," said Surgeon General Antonia C. Novello.

As of mid-October, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control, 54 percent of the measles cases were reported among children who were younger than 5 years old, and 86 percent of all children in that age group had not been immunized. Dr. Novello also said studies had shown that the measles epidemic of 1989-1990 was not caused by a shortage of the vaccine but by a failure to deliver it.

Under the foundation program, up to 20 communities with populations of at least 200,000 will be selected to receive one-year planning grants of $150,000, said the foundation's president, Dr. Steven Schroeder.

The 12 communities with the best programs for tracking immunizations will be given an additional $525,000 over four years to implement those programs.

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