Parents delaying, skipping recommended vaccines

NEW YORK Mon Oct 3, 2011 9:30am EDT

A health worker prepares a vaccine against measles at the Benito Juarez international airport in Mexico City July 22, 2011. REUTERS/Bernardo Montoya

A health worker prepares a vaccine against measles at the Benito Juarez international airport in Mexico City July 22, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Bernardo Montoya

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - More than one in 10 parents use an "alternative" vaccination schedule for their young children, including refusing vaccines altogether, according to a U.S. survey.

Based on the findings, researchers worry that more parents may be refusing vaccines in the future, raising the risk that diseases like measles and whooping cough will spread in schools and communities.

"The vaccines that we recommend have been so effective in largely eliminating the vaccine-preventable diseases that most parents don't have first, second or even third-hand experience with these diseases," said Dr. Amanda Dempsey, one of the authors of a new report based on the survey from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

(For an abstract of the study, see: here)

Whether or not to get their kids vaccinated "is more of a theoretical concern or concept for them," Dempsey told Reuters Health. "These are really real risks that are out there. None of these diseases are completely eradicated."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's vaccination schedule for kids six and younger includes MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) shots, and vaccines to protect against whooping cough, chicken pox, hepatitis and seasonal flu, among others. (The full recommended schedule is on the CDC website here: 1.usa.gov/k23A6d)

The Internet survey included 748 parents of kids between the ages of six months and six years. Of those, 13 percent said they used some type of vaccination schedule that differed from the CDC recommendations.

That included refusing some vaccines or delaying vaccines until kids were older -- mostly because parents thought that "seemed safer."

Dempsey said there is no evidence for the safety or effectiveness of such alternative schedules.

In addition, two percent of parents refused any vaccination altogether, according to findings published in Pediatrics.

Even among parents who did follow the recommended schedule, about one-quarter said in the survey they thought delaying vaccines would be safer or that the expert-backed schedule wasn't the best one to follow.

Dempsey said there's extra concern that those parents will stop getting their kids the recommended vaccines. "It's really quite worrisome to me," she said. Vaccine refusal and delay, she added, "is not likely to go away anytime soon, and is likely to get significantly worse over time. We may just be seeing the tip of the iceberg right now."

NOT A BENIGN CHOICE

Parents who skip or delay vaccines typically cite safety concerns, researchers said, including the now debunked idea of a link between vaccines and autism.

What they miss is the risk of the disease they aren't vaccinating against, said Saad Omer, an infectious diseases researcher at Emory University in Atlanta.

"Parents often have this perception that it's a benign choice, whether to vaccinate or not," Omer, who was not involved in the new research, told Reuters Health.

He said parents who refuse vaccines tend to cluster together in certain areas -- increasing the risk of a local disease outbreak, even in kids who have been vaccinated.

Because no vaccine protects 100 percent of kids who get it, epidemiologists rely on "herd immunity" to make sure enough kids are well enough protected to keep a disease from spreading. But that immunity gets thrown off when there are more youngsters who haven't had their recommended vaccines.

"Infectious diseases are somewhat unique in a way in that others' behavior directly influences you or your child's risk of disease," Omer said.

He said vaccine refusal already has increased the risk of whooping cough spreading in communities, for example.

"We're seeing schools having to close because of pertussis," Dempsey said, adding that measles cases have also spiked recently.

With some diseases, such as polio, the risk of getting sick in the United States, even if you aren't vaccinated is pretty low. But "when a bad outcome happens to your family, it's 100 percent," Dempsey said. "You can't ever say it's not going to be your kid."

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Comments (10)
gradkiss wrote:
It takes more than fines and incarceration to gain the trust of humans…it takes an enduring type of Love that may be missing within the uS Government, with the exception for the attention paid to a dollar bill…that somehow ends with skin eating bacteria all over it like the beaches in California ended in the late 80′s and all soon forgot.
I recall when they led me to a school and assured me that all the polio would be eradicated from the world, using sugar cubes and the vaccine dropped on the sugar cube that turned the cube pink.
Guess that did not work either…then look at what happened with small pox, and std’s, then everything else that is currently happening.I would advise everyone be careful too!

Oct 03, 2011 1:48am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Donmfe wrote:
A very biased article. No mention of the real dangers of vaccines.
Just google “vaccine dangers” for the other side of the coin.

Oct 03, 2011 2:16am EDT  --  Report as abuse
gimme3pleez wrote:
I hope that these researchers know that some parents, and a growing number in today’s society I’m afraid, will lie when taking a survey. According to this article “one-quarter said in the survey that they thought delaying vaccines would be safer or that the expert-backed schedule wasn’t the best one to follow”. How intellectual and thoughtful such answers make a good-for-nothing parent seem. If the researchers believe that one-quarter of the survey takers actually did not get their kids vacinated because of those intellectually and politically correct answers, I have some swamp land in Florida to sell those gullible researchers. The majority of today’s adult society is so lazy, so prone to work too many hours, so hooked on constantly seeking pleasure by means such as watching TV (28 hours per week for the average person per the A.C. Nielsen survey and it is probably a little understated), eating itself obese, playing computer games and drinking and drugging that getting a child vaccinated would simply take too much time and require too much inconvenience to be a priority. Surveys indicate that a parent today spends than average of 3.5 minutes per week in meaningful conversation with their child so itr’s safe to assume that good parenting is not a priority in today’s average family. Compound the above with the lack of discipline of today’s children and the parent’s willingness to let the chold have oits way when the child throws a temper tantrum when told that he/she would have to quit watching TV, Facebooking, Twittering, texting and playing computer games long enough to get vacinated and you have the real reasons many children are not immunized. If the vacinations are not delivered door-to-door for free, forget it! Too many of today’s parents are too irresponsible, too tired, too caught up in entertaining themselves and too lazy and too unwilling to go through the hassle to take their children to wherever the vacinations are being given and many cannot afford to pay for them if their is a charge anyway.

Oct 03, 2011 2:33am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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