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Many Adolescents Lacking Vaccinations Thousands Of Youths At Risk Of Chickenpox, Measles, Hepatitis

Fri., Aug. 16, 1996

Thousands of American adolescents are at risk of catching chickenpox, measles and other diseases because of a vaccination gap among 10- to 12-year-olds, federal health officials said Thursday in urging parents to ensure their children get back-to-school shots.

Through last Friday, 350 cases of measles have been reported in the United States this year, a 38 percent increase over the same period last year, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said.

One in five American children 11 to 12 years old is susceptible to chickenpox because of having had neither the disease nor the vaccine, experts said.

And more than 30,000 American teenagers a year are contracting hepatitis B, a liver disease which can be prevented with a vaccine and which can lead to cirrhosis and cancer of the liver.

At a news conference sponsored by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, Dr. Steven R. Mostow of the University of Colorado Rose Medical Center said parents generally do a good job of ensuring that their children get the “baby shots” which protect against most childhood diseases. Most states require those shots before children start school.

But Mostow said there has been less of an effort to ensure that adolescents are protected. In recent years, vaccines have been developed for hepatitis B and for chickenpox, but these shots generally are not required for admission to school.

Also, medical science recently has concluded that a second measles shot is required to fully protect children from that disease. Most children got measles vaccine as part of their “baby shots,” but many have not received the booster shot.

Dr. Gregory A. Poland of the Mayo Clinic said measles “is the most contagious disease known to man” and that it poses a real risk of causing lasting disability for some people.

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