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Vaccination Delays Put Many Children at Risk

Researchers Say Many Infants Don't Get Vaccinations on Time

Childhood Vaccination Delays Common continued...

Overall, the study showed that children were undervaccinated an average of 172 days for all vaccines combined during their first two years of life. About 34% were behind on their vaccinations for less than one month and 29% for one to two months, but 37% were behind for more than six months.

"These data show that during certain periods of time children are susceptible to infections that could be pretty serious and at a time when they could have been be protected if they had adhered to the vaccine schedule," says Robert S. Baltimore, MD, professor of pediatrics at Yale University School of Medicine and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases.

About a quarter of the children experienced delays in getting four or more of the six recommended vaccines. About one-fourth of the children were considered severely delayed because they were behind for more than six months and for four or more vaccines.

Researchers say few of these delays were short. Instead, 39% of vaccination delays ranged from three to 12 months.

How to Curb Vaccination Delays

The results suggest that several factors increase children's risk of experiencing severe delays in getting their vaccinations, including:

 

  • Having a mother who is unmarried or does not have a college degree
  • Living in a household with two or more children
  • Being non-Hispanic black
  • Having two or more vaccination providers, such as a doctor and a clinic
  • Using public vaccination clinics

 

Baltimore says those risk factors are of particular concern because they may occur in clusters.

"Children of mothers who have these risks may not only be at risk because they have delayed vaccination but because they're in contact with other children who have delayed vaccination, so there is a potential for infections to spread within their community," say Baltimore.

Researchers say the results show that efforts are needed to address the needs of these mothers in order to reduce immunization delays, including:

 

  • Offering extended office hours to mothers who have trouble taking time off work
  • Explaining the benefits and safety of vaccinations in a manner appropriate to the mother's education level
  • Ensuring the availability of sibling child care in the workplace
  • Putting systems in place to identify children who are falling behind in their immunization schedule, such as issuing reminders to the parent when vaccinations are due or late

 

But most of all, Luman says the most important thing that can be done to reduce vaccination delays is to emphasize the importance of timely vaccinations.

"Timely vaccination is one of the most important things for a parent to do to protect the health of their children," Luman says.

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