An alarming new report conducted by RTI Health Solutions has revealed that roughly a third of all children in the U.S. do not receive the full dose of recommended vaccinations by the age of two. Additionally, of those who do complete the course of medications, a high proportion do not receive their jabs at the correct intervals.
Unlike adults, infants have immature immune systems that change and develop rapidly over the first two years of life. For instance, since babies are born with some of their mother’s antibodies, they remain immune from certain diseases for a period of time, but gradually this protection wanes. As a result, young children become increasingly susceptible to different illnesses at very specific times during their formative years, which is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has devised a detailed immunization schedule recommended for all infants. By following this protocol, parents can ensure their youngsters are immunized at the right times.
However, according to the new study – which appears in the journal Vaccine – only 66 percent of children actually receive all of the necessary vaccinations during the two-year period, and only 26 percent receive these at the recommended intervals. Of those who do not comply with the timing of the schedule, around one in four remained undervaccinated for a period of at least seven months.
To conduct the study, researchers collected data on a sample of 11,710 children from the 2012 National Immunization Survey, and found that not only did compliance vary by state, but also by type of vaccination. For instance, completion rates ranged from 55 percent in Alaska to 77 percent in Mississippi. Additionally, while 68 percent of children nationwide received two or three doses of rotavirus vaccine, 92 percent were given the full three doses of inactivated poliovirus vaccine.
The CDC’s vaccination schedule provides specific guidelines on when babies should be administered with each of a range of 14 different vaccines. For instance, a dose of rotavirus, diphtheria and haemophilus influenza vaccines are recommended at two, four, and six months after birth, while a shot of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is suggested at between 12 and 18 months. For those who miss these deadlines, the CDC recommends following its “catch-up schedule,” which typically involves receiving a number of doses of a particular vaccine within a certain period of time.
Away from the US, efforts are being stepped up to deter parents from taking the risk of not getting their children vaccinated. For instance, Australia's parliament recently passed a new bill which will see parents lose their child benefit payments if they do not comply with essential vaccination guidelines.