Undervaccinated Tots Create Higher Risk for Community

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

According to a recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics, among the 300,000 babies born in the United States between 2004 and 2008, almost half were undervaccinated before their second birthday.

Researchers said the cause of this undervaccination could be from a lapse in insurance coverage, children sick during their well-visits and doctors postponed vaccine, or parents chose to forego the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended vaccination schedule.

“It’s definitely concerning. I think that parents don’t see too many vaccine-preventable diseases anymore and in some ways that has made people feel comfortable not vaccinating their children” Children’s National pediatrician Lee Beers, MD, said. “But we still see some of these illnesses and we’re lucky that we have the technology like vaccines for preventable diseases. We’ll lose that protection if a significant amount of children are under protected.”

While vaccines do not protect recipients perfectly, public health officials rely on herd immunity – the protection of unvaccinated individuals by those immune to diseases – to keep vaccine-preventable diseases at bay.

Another reason for this undervaccination is a result of parents requesting to delay vaccinations, citing safety concerns like a link to autism, which scientists agree is a nonissue.

“There’s a lot of information on the internet, and a lot of it is not true. And if parents are already disgusted with their medical care, I can see how people would feel worried about vaccinations,” Dr. Beers said.

She urged parents wanting to learn more about vaccinations online go to reliable sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the American Academy of Pediatrics’ HealthyChildren.org.

The recent study linked much of the undervaccination to a lack of access to care. Dr. Beers thinks that having access to high quality care and insurance coverage of vaccines would increase the numbers of vaccinated children because this approach worked in Washington, DC.

According to a study published in Pediatrics, researchers at Children’s National saw a 16 percent increase in immunization rates and 14 percent increase in on-time immunization at six health centers that participated in the study. To achieve this, they used family reminders, education, expanded immunization access, and feedback from providers.

Has your child ever missed a booster? What do you think about vaccine schedules?


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