A new study from the Kaiser Permanente Colorado in Denver claims more than 300,000 American babies and toddlers (that’s approximately half) born between 2004 and 2008 are “under-vaccinated” due to parents deciding to opt out of shots recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Obviously when it comes to skipping vaccinations for preventable infections, like measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), diphtheria, and whooping cough, which can infect entire schools, day care facilities, and communities, researchers have cause for concern.
“[This] can create a critical mass of susceptible individuals,” says Saad Omer, from the Emory Vaccine Center in Atlanta who was not involved in the study. Omer also points to the fact that public health officials depend on so-called “herd immunity” (or mass vaccination) to keep otherwise vaccine-preventable diseases from spreading.
The study analyzed immunization records for 323,000 kids, as well as health data from eight managed care organizations. It found that the 54-percent of children who were vaccinated late—even for just one vaccine—had fewer doctors’ appointments and emergency room visits versus the kids who received their shots on time.
Recent studies are showing a trend for more and more parents opting to delay or choose not to vaccinate kids altogether due to these reasons:
- One in 8 children weren’t vaccinated due to parents’ choices—a preference for alternative or complementary medicine
- Lack of insurance coverage
- Illness or flu occurred, which postponed vaccines
- Safety concerns—for example, linking vaccines to diseases like autism (which has not been proven)
“We don’t have any evidence that there are any safety concerns with the current recommended [vaccine] schedule,” says Jason Glanz, study researcher. “What we’re worried about is if [under-vaccination] becomes more and more common, it may place children at an increased risk of vaccine-preventable diseases…[and] some of these diseases that we worked so hard to eliminate come back…Right now the best way to protect your child from infection is to get your child vaccinated on time.”