Health ministry worries over low measles innoculation rates

The measles vaccination rate among first-year middle school and third-year high school students remains low at about 50 percent, as of the end of September, according to a health ministry survey.

The ministry introduced a vaccination program in spring for the two student groups aimed at preventing a measles outbreak, but the rate remains well short of the 95 percent figure considered necessary to prevent a measles epidemic.

A Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry survey showed that the inoculation rates in large cities, including Tokyo and Osaka, hovered between 30 percent and 40 percent. It showed that the inoculation rate among first-year middle school students rose to 56.4 percent–an increase of 17.6 percentage points–over a previous survey conducted three months earlier.

The survey results were released Tuesday.

By prefecture, Fukui Prefecture came top with a vaccination rate of 84 percent. However, of the seven prefectures that recorded rates of below 50 percent, Osaka Prefecture ranked lowest with 44.1 percent, followed by Tokyo with 47.1 percent.

Although the latest survey showed that the inoculation rate for third-year high school students climbed by 18 percentage points to 47.6 percent, it was still low compared to the figure attained by the first-year middle school students.

Fukui Prefecture had the highest vaccination rate for third-year high school students with 73 percent, followed by Saga Prefecture with 71.3 percent. However, prefectures with large metropolitan cities lagged behind, with Tokyo ranking last with 32.4 percent, followed by Osaka and Kanagawa prefectures with 33.6 percent and 35.5 percent, respectively.

(Dec. 4, 2008) The Yomiuri Shimbun

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