Houston’s Immunization Rates Lag Behind Other Cities

By Phyllis Griffin Epps

Houston, home to a concentration of medical knowledge and talent unparalleled in the world, ranks last among the nation’s urban areas in rates of toddler immunizations. A report issued in March 1999 showed that Houston bucks the national trend toward increasing rates of immunization coverage. Only 61% of Houston’s young children are adequately immunized, compared to rates of 92% and 79% in Boston and New York, respectively. Houston’s current rates mark a decline from peak coverage levels of 73% in 1994.

Houston-area practitioners, administrators, and policymakers convened on February 10, 2000, to develop strategies to increase immunization rates. The meeting, "Houston, We Have A Problem: Our Children Are Under-Immunized," was sponsored by the Houston Area Immunizations Coalition, Houston Department of Health and Human Services, Episcopal Health Charities, and Merck Vaccine Division.

Attendees identified numerous factors behind the poor immunization rates, including the following

The following strategies for improving rates have proved successful in other urban areas of comparable size: The Department of Health and Human Services listed other strategies now in place to improve rates: evening and weekend clinics, clinics in non-traditional sites like supermarkets, provider training, and measures to streamline the reporting of diseases.