A new report published in the journal Pediatrics shows that the number of parents delaying or limiting their children’s vaccinations more than tripled from 2006 to 2009. However, only a small number of parents who opted out of the standard schedule chose to follow an alternative recommended schedule.
The study examined the medical records of approximately 97,000 children and classified their vaccination schedules in three categories. “Shot-limiters” never received more than two shots per visit, “episodic limiters” sometimes received fewer shots than recommended, and “non-limiters” received vaccinations according to recommendations.
Over the three-year period, researchers found that by age nine months, non-limiter children had received 10.4 shots on average, compared with limiters and episodic limiters who received 6.4 total shots on average.
The primary reason for altering vaccination schedules is fear of adverse reactions when vaccines are received simultaneously. Steven Robison, an author of this study, explained that many parents choose to delay vaccinations because “[they] have an emotional reaction to the sight of their baby being poked three or four times.”
The traditional vaccine schedule is set by an agency at the CDC, the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP). Experts at ACIP explain that the vaccine schedule was created to “protect infants and children early in life, when they are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases.” They also warn that if vaccination schedules are altered, many common diseases could resurface, resulting in childhood illness, disability, and death. For instance, experts attribute the unusually high rates of measles in the US in 2011 to parents’ refusing the MMR vaccine for their children.
The CDC does not mandate vaccinations for students before entry to schools. Instead, each state creates its own guidelines for immunization requirements.
The researchers behind this study cautioned that the results may not be indicative of attitudes throughout the country since Portland has unusually high rates of vaccine exemption. However, other studies have also found that about 13 percent of parents nationwide are limiting or delaying their children’s vaccinations.