NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Parents Delay Vaccinations, Put Kids at Risk

October 5, 2011

At a time when many infectious diseases are making a comeback, about 13 percent of parents are skipping or delaying their children's immunizations and following an "alternative" vaccination schedule that puts kids at serious risk, a new study says, reports USA Today.

Health officials are concerned about the trend.

  • Unvaccinated people have fueled an outbreak of measles, which sickened nearly 200 people in the first eight months of this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • The United States also has battled outbreaks of whooping cough and mumps in the past two years.

The study's results reflect widespread skepticism and confusion about vaccine safety, fueled partly by a 1998 study in The Lancet linking vaccines to autism that has since been revealed to be fraudulent, says Ari Brown, a doctor and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

  • Even among parents who fully vaccinate their children, 28 percent believe that an alternative schedule -- which spaces out vaccines to avoid giving several shots at once -- is safer, the study says.
  • Parents were most likely to skip vaccination against H1N1 (swine flu) and seasonal flu, the study says.
  • Parents were least likely to skip the polio vaccine.
  • Researchers also noted that white parents were more likely to follow an alternative vaccine schedule, as were families who didn't have a regular doctor.

Skipping or spacing out vaccines dramatically increases the risk of illness, the study says.

  • Children whose parents opt out of one or more vaccines are 22 times more likely to contract measles and nearly six times more likely to contract whooping cough, according to background research cited in the study.
  • Unvaccinated babies are particularly vulnerable, because newborns are at greater risk of complications from many infections, says Douglas Diekema, a doctor and bioethicistat Seattle Children's Research Institute.

Source: Liz Szabo, "Many Parents Opt for 'Alternative' Vaccination Schedule," USA Today, October 3, 2011.  Amanda F. Dempsey et al., "Alternative Vaccination Schedule Preferences Among Parents of Young Children," Pediatrics, October 3, 2011.

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