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Almost 40 percent of 2-year-olds in Utah have not been fully immunized against preventable diseases - and Utah pediatricians could be doing more to correct the problem.

According to a study released Tuesday by the Every Child By Two Immunization Task Force, pediatricians and health-care providers are too easily dissuaded from giving children immunizations. And they overestimate how much parents know about immunizations, missing out on opportunities to educate parents about the importance of preventing such diseases.Child immunizations were first tried some 200 years ago, "and you would think in that time we would have gotten it right," said Dr. William Cosgrove.

The task force, led by Utah first lady Jacki Leavitt, has been trying to increase awareness of the need for immunization against diseases like measles and whooping cough. Utah ranks among the worst states in the nation in cases of reported diseases that were preventable with proper immunizations. All of those diseases are potentially lethal to children.

According to a survey commissioned by the Utah Department of Health, Utah Medical Association and other organizations, physicians often fail to take full advantage of their positions of influence with parents to promote immunizations.

Less than 20 percent of physicians provide immunizations to children receiving attention for acute illnesses, and "many physicians are too easily dissuaded from immunizing children with mild illnesses, citing fussiness, colds and low-grade fevers as reasons to post-pone immunizations."

The study further noted that systems to routinely schedule patients needing immunizations are "ineffective or nonexistent."

Physicians responding to the query recognized that immunization rates among preschool children should be radically improved and that they see themselves playing a major role in a long-term proactive effort.

"Neither parents nor provider can continue to assume that someone else will get the job done," the report says. "New strategies to improve the effectiveness of office-based immunization practices must be found and implemented in order for Utah to reach the goal of 90 percent of all 2-year-olds fully immunized by the year 2000."

Cosgrove said preventable diseases still occur in Utah with alarming frequency. Last year, there were 136 cases of measles.

The task force will host a statewide conference in Ogden on Oct. 25.