Study: Parents making their own vaccine schedules for children

A nationwide survey finds 13% of parents modify their kids' vaccine schedule by delaying or skipping recommended shots. The findings were released in a recent issue of Pediatrics.

Only 2% of parents who responded reported skipping vaccines all together, but a greater number chose to alter the CDC's recommended schedule. Children whose parents chose to skip vaccines were also less likely to visit a doctor regularly. "Do parents who follow an alternative schedule have a difficult time finding a physician for their child who supports their vaccination beliefs, or are parents who tend not to engage in regular healthcare for their children those who also tend to follow an alternative schedule?” asked the University of Michigan study authors, according to the Boston Globe. They were unable to determine an answer. Parents were most likely to skip the measles-mumps-rubella shots and the diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus shots.

The number of recommended vaccines has risen significantly over the last two decades, from 11 before kindergarten two decades ago to 38 in the same timeframe today. Many parents are concerned that giving young children that many vaccines is dangerous; indeed, 80% to 95% of those surveyed who used an alternative vaccine schedule harbored anti-vaccine sentiments. But skipping essential vaccines significantly raises the risk that children will contract preventable disease. The UMich researchers found kids who missed vaccines were 6 times as likely to develop whooping cough and 22 times more likely than their vaccinated peers to get the measles.

"The results of this study highlight the need to develop interventions quickly to quell the apparently growing concerns among parents about the safety and necessity of recommended childhood vaccines," concluded lead author Amanda Dempsey. A recent IOM study determined that there's no link between vaccines and autism, but those findings have done little to dissuade parents and critics who are still skeptical of vaccine safety. 

- see the Boston Globe report
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