Roughly 40% of children in the United States are not up to date on their vaccines, according to the findings of new research.
In a study published in the March issue of the medical journal Pediatrics, researchers indicate that about 60% of parents adhered to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended vaccination schedule for young children, leaving many children at risk of serious diseases, or passing them to others.
Researchers with Emory University examined data to determine if parents adhered to the CDC’s Advisory on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended early childhood immunization schedule. They used 2014 National Immunizations Survey provider-verified vaccination data to classify vaccination patterns as recommended, alternate, or unknown or unclassifiable.
The “recommended” classification indicated parents followed the CDC’s ACIP dose-and age-specific recommendations.
The “alternate” classification indicated vaccination doses were limited by the number of shots per visit or parents skipped at least one vaccine series.
The “unknown or unclassifiable” designation indicated the vaccine schedule was not in line with ACIP recommendations or clearly limiting shots per visit or vaccine series.
More than 60% of parents followed the recommended vaccine guidelines and schedule. However, about 23% followed the alternate schedule and 14% followed unknown or unclassifiable patterns.
Overall, 58% of children were up to date with all ACIP recommend immunizations by 19 to 35 months. Not being up to date with vaccinations was associated with alternate and unknown or unclassifiable vaccine patterns.
Children who followed an alternate vaccination schedule were four times as likely to not be up to date with their vaccines and children with unknown patterns were 2.4 times as likely.
The findings indicate children whose parents did not follow the recommended schedule had 10 doctor’s visits to receive their vaccinations, compared to only seven among those who followed the ACIP recommended schedule. Extra doctor’s office visits put an additional burden on families and on the healthcare system. More so, those delays leave children unprotected from diseases which are preventable by vaccines.
Outbreaks of disease, such as measles, can occur at any time. Children on delayed vaccine schedules face an increased risk of not only contracting the disease, but also experiencing serious complications, the researchers warned.
“Vaccine schedule adherence patterns are strongly associated with up-to-date status, and future research should be focused on identifying the parent actions and circumstances that increase the likelihood of deviating from the recommended schedule,” the researchers concluded. “Interventions should target both providers (to ensure that all eligible vaccines are offered) and parents (to ensure that all eligible vaccines are received), ultimately contributing to greater numbers of US children who are up-to-date for all recommended immunizations.”