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Children's Vaccines Health Center

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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

In the study, researchers analyzed data collected by the 2003 National Immunization Survey, an annual telephone survey used to estimate vaccination coverage rates for U.S. children aged 19 to 35 months. The results appear in the March 9 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

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.

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