Parents refuse to vaccinate children out of fear, study says
WASHINGTON - October 12, 2018
According to a new Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study, about 100,000 Americans born in 2015-2016 are not vaccinated against any of the 14 diseases for which there are appropriate recommendations.
And although this is only 1.3% of children born in this period, the tendency not to vaccinate babies is growing. Thus, a similar study showed the percentage of unvaccinated children in 2011 was 0.9%, and in 2001—0.3%.
“This is something we’re definitely concerned about,” said Amanda Cohn, a pediatrician and the CDC’s senior adviser for vaccines. “We know there are parents who choose not to vaccinate their kids... We know the fact the children are particularly vulnerable to complications from diseases that are prevented by vaccination. Some of these diseases can be fatal... We know the fact there may be parents who want to and aren’t able to get their children immunized.”
At the same time, the situation is leveled out for older children. Overall vaccination rates among schoolchildren remain stable. Almost 95% of school-age children receive all 14 recommended vaccinations.
According to CDC experts, the reasons why parents have not vaccinated children differ, but it’s mainly due to the misconceptions of some people of the “dangers” of vaccinations.
For example, measles is one disease that has made a comeback in the U.S. due to parents refusing to vaccinate their children. The worst measles outbreak was in Minnesota last year after anti-vaccine activists mass refused to vaccinate.
Most of the 75 confirmed cases were young, unvaccinated Somali American children.
The data underlying the latest reports does not explain the reason for the increase in unvaccinated children. In some cases, parents hesitate or refuse to immunize, officials and experts said.
Another common reason for refusing vaccination is health insurance, experts say. About 7% of uninsured children in this age group were not vaccinated in 2017, compared with 0.8% of privately insured children and 1% of those covered by Medicaid.
In 2017, among children aged 19 months to 35 months in rural areas, about 2% received no vaccinations in 2017. That is double the number of unvaccinated children living in urban areas.
“Perhaps, parents may not be aware of possible to free immunizations under the federally funded Vaccines for Children program,” Cohn said. “So this may be an education issue.”
Other issues, such as child care, transportation, and a shortage of pediatricians in rural areas are also likely to affect vaccination coverage.
Saad Omer, a professor of global health, epidemiology, and pediatrics at Emory University, said that an analysis he and colleagues conducted a few years ago found that the rate of nonmedical exemptions had appeared to stabilize by the 2015-2016 school year after many years of increase.
But the latest CDC data appears to reflect a change, he said. “It seems that in recent years, exemptions are going up, and the trend is likely due to parents refusing to vaccinate,” he said.
In the 2017-2018 school year, 2.2% of U.S. kindergartners were exempted from one or more vaccines, up from 2% in the 2016-2017 school year and from 1.9% in the 2015-2016 school year, according to the CDC report.
Reasons for the increase couldn’t be determined from the data reported to CDC, the agency said. But researchers said factors could include the ease of obtaining exemptions or parents’ hesitancy or refusal to vaccinate.
States such as West Virginia and Mississippi, which do not allow nonmedical vaccine exemptions, have higher percentages of children getting vaccinated, said Mobeen Rathore, a pediatric infectious disease physician in Jacksonville, Fla., and a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Earlier this year, researchers from several Texas academic centers identified “hotspots” where outbreak risk is rising in 12 of 18 states that allow nonmedical exemptions because a growing number of kindergartners have not been vaccinated.