The number of US children under the age of 2 who haven’t received any necessary, life-saving immunizations has quadrupled since 2001, according to an analysis released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These include federally recommended vaccinations against preventable (and potentially serious) illnesses such as polio, measles, mumps, rubella, and hepatitis B, among others.
The report was compiled using 2001 to 2017 data from national, state, and local records. Of children born in 2015, the report finds that 1.3 percent did not receive any recommended vaccinations. In 2011, that number was just 0.9 percent. In 2001, it was 0.3 percent for children between the ages of 19 and 35 months. If the 2015 rate is still accurate for those born in 2016, then that means about 105,000 American children under the age of 2 are still not vaccinated against 14 serious illnesses.
From a national perspective, the statistics suggest more than 90 percent of parents are following immunization recommendations. That being said, recent skepticism surrounding vaccinations is creating “hot spots” of communities around the country where parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children, putting them both at risk of getting preventable diseases and posing an even greater risk to public health. (There is still no link between vaccines and autism. Read here, here, and here.)
A study earlier this year found that a dozen states have communities where parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children, including major metropolitan areas in the Pacific Northwest, Texas, Utah, Arizona, and rural counties in Idaho, Wisconsin, and Utah.
A recent uptick in unvaccinated children could also be attributed to inadequate health care and insurance coverage; 7.1 percent of uninsured children were not vaccinated, compared to 0.8 percent of those who are privately insured and 1 percent of those under Medicaid. As the Washington Post notes, those children under Medicaid or without insurance can receive free vaccinations under the government program Vaccines for Children.
The national 2017 immunization survey was conducted over a random telephone interview or a mailed survey sent to providers, both of which have limitations worth mentioning. As the report notes, selection bias means that families without a home phone may not have been accounted for as just over a quarter of participants responded. Secondly, vaccination histories may not be complete if not all providers were identified or if some chose not to participate. To account for these potential errors, the results suggest an underestimation of actual vaccination coverage by 4 to 5 percent.
“Although the number of children who have received no vaccinations by age 24 months has been gradually increasing, most children are still routinely vaccinated,” reads the analysis. “Continued evaluation of prevalence and reasons for nonvaccination is needed, as are improvements in access to and delivery of age-appropriate vaccinations to all children.”
[H/T: Washington Post]