NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Big Jump Seen in Parents Delaying Vaccines

June 25, 2012

An increasing number of parents are choosing to delay certain vaccinations for their young children, a new study shows, even as cases of whooping cough continue to rise nationwide. Portland, Oregon, parents were the subject of the study, which found that they are increasingly following alternative vaccination schedules, says

Though the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides a schedule for vaccinations, the study finds that parents are going rogue because they fear that giving their children several vaccinations at once is dangerous.

  • According to the CDC, there were 2,325 cases of pertussis in Washington state through June 9, 2012, compared to 171 during the same time period in 2011.
  • A 2010 outbreak in California led to 9,143 cases -- including 10 infant deaths -- the most cases in that state since 1947.
  • The study, which examined medical records for 97,711 Portland children, found an almost four-fold increase between 2006 and 2009 in the percentage of parents who delayed or skipped vaccinations, from 2.5 percent to 9.5 percent.
  • A 2011 study published in Pediatrics found that 13 percent of parents nationwide were using alternative schedules.
  • By 9 months, infants on an alternative vaccine schedule had fewer injections than those with parents following the government recommended schedule -- an average of 6.4 versus 10.4 shots -- and more doctors' visits for vaccinations.
  • The vaccines most likely to be delayed by 9 months were for hepatitis B and pneumococcal disease (pneumonia).

The case of the pneumonia vaccine is particularly troubling because it is in the first year of a child's life that they are most susceptible to the disease. Furthermore, in addition to protecting children from pneumonia, the vaccine reduces the amount of bacteria they carry as a whole. Therefore, failing to vaccinate children increases the likelihood that they will infect someone else as well.

Finally, by following alternative vaccination schedules, parents usually have to take their child to the doctor's office more often. This action alone is dangerous, as visits to doctors' offices expose children to a number of communicable diseases. Were they to receive their vaccinations in mass, as the CDC recommends, this would not happen.

Source: Linda Carroll, "Big Jump Seen in Oregon Parents Delaying Vaccines,", June 18, 2012.

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