Report: Higher income parents increasingly forgoing kids' vaccinations

Vaccination rates for children insured by commercial plans declined roughly four percentage points between 2008 and 2009. And experts fear that if this trend continues, the public's health could be jeopardized.

"Rates had been gradually improving in the commercial plans. This was the first time we'd seen a drop--and it was a pretty big drop," said Sarah Thomas, vice president of public policy and communication for the National Committee for Quality Assurance, which recently released its annual State of Health Care Quality report.

Although vaccination rates last year were still mostly higher among children in private health plans rather than Medicaid, parents in a relatively high socio-economic bracket are forgoing vaccines because of fears about their safety. Meanwhile, poorer individuals are taking good advantage of their access to free or extremely low-cost care to have their children immunized. And experts hypothesize that fears of autism and other adverse events resulting from the vaccines could be to blame, HealthDay notes.

The report relied on voluntary reporting from 1,000 health plans covering 118 million Americans, in addition to data from Medicaid. The authors found a drop in several routine childhood vaccinations. Measles, mumps and rubella vaccines decreased from 93.5 percent in 2008 to 90.6 percent in 2009; diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough rates fell from 87.2 percent to 85.4 percent in that one-year period; and the proportion of kids getting vaccinated for chickenpox fell from 92 percent in 2008 to 90.6 percent in 2009, according to HealthDay.

Experts have been increasingly alarmed at the numbers of children not being vaccinated. Earlier this year, Michigan researchers determined public health officials need to redesign vaccine information programs to address parental safety concerns or continued high childhood immunization rates will be at risk.

- get more from HealthDay

ALSO: Oak Park voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved an advisory referendum measure asking healthcare providers to disclose the list of ingredients in vaccines and provide more information for each injection. Story