One-third of parents of toddlers don’t vaccinate their children on time, a new study estimates.
Researchers found that 23 percent of mothers and fathers either limited the number of shots given per doctor’s visit or had their children skip at least one vaccine.
Another 14 percent did not follow the guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The team, from Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, in Atlanta, Georgia, say the findings underline the need for pediatricians to make clear to parents the importance of getting their kids shots on time.
Not vaccinating young children leaves them highly susceptible to both infectious diseases and their complications, which can include brain swelling, pneumonia and even death, and was widely blamed for the resurgence of measles last year.
A new study from Emory University found that 23% of parents of children between ages 19 and 35 months old have skipped at least one vaccine and 14% do not follow guidelines (file image)
According to the CDC, more than 90 percent of children under age three have been vaccinated for polio, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), Hepatitis B and chicken pox.
But that still leaves us barely reaching the threshold for herd immunity, which occurs when the vast majority of a community becomes immune so that, if a disease is introduced, it is unable to spread.
And more than 80 percent have received Haemophilus influenzae, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and pneumococcal infection vaccines.
However, mounting distrust – of the pharmaceutical industry and the research that states vaccines are safe – has led some parents to not immunize their children, in turn leading to outbreaks of diseases not seen in years, such as measles, whooping cough and mumps.
Research questioning vaccine safety has been debunked by countless times.
For the new study, published in the journal Pediatrics, the team analyzed data from the 2014 National Immunization Survey.
They looked at the up-to-date immunization status of more than 15 059 children between ages 19 and 35 months old.
By this age range, the CDC recommends shots against the 14 following diseases:
- Hepatitis B (three doses)
- Diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough (pertussis) (four of five doses)
- Haemophilus influenzae type b disease (four doses)
- Pneumococcal disease (four doses)
- Polio (three doses)
- Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) (one of two doses)
- Chickenpox (one of two doses)
- Hepatitis A (one dose)
- Influenza (Flu) (yearly)
Researchers found that most children – 63 percent – were receiving their vaccines on the recommended schedule.
But almost one-quarter of children were following an ‘alternate pattern’ – either delaying or skipping at least one shot – and 14 percent did not follow federal guidelines.
Children who moved across state lines, were not first-born, lived in the Northeast, were black or multi-racial, or lived below the poverty level were the most likely to not be up-to-date on vaccines.
Several past studies have found that vaccine misinformation – such as the myth that the shots cause autism – continue to perpetuated online.
Experts say this could be why parents delay their children’s immunizations.
Another reason could be that as diseases have become less common, people don’t remember a time from before vaccines were commonplace.
‘Because we don’t frequently see these diseases anymore, we don’t perceive the risk of not getting vaccinated,’ says Julie Bettinger, a vaccine safety scientist at BC Children’s Hospital, told Today’s Parent.
‘But the diseases we developed vaccines for – like polio, which killed or crippled thousands of children – were selected precisely because they’re so severe.’
The study authors say that interventions ions are needed to reduce vaccine delays and these children’s risk of catching highly infectious diseases.
‘[The study’s results] let pediatricians know that this may potentially be a bigger issue than we’ve recognized (in the past),’ co-author Dr Robert Bednarczyk, an assistant professor of global health and epidemiology at the Emory Vaccine Center, told Healthline.
‘I hope these findings can help spur [pediatricians] to make sure that children are scheduled on time and that parents understand why. These schedules are created by people with great expertise.’