More Parents Refuse, Delay Child's Vaccinations
Despite Delays and Refusals, Overall Vaccination Rate Goes Up
May 5, 2010 -- In 2008, 39% of parents refused or delayed giving at least
one routine vaccine to their children, up from 22% just five years earlier, the
Despite the delays, which widen the critical period in which kids are most
vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases, the percentage of kids who got all
their basic vaccinations went up to 76% from 73%, says Lance E. Rodewald, MD,
the CDC's director of immunization services.
The data come from the National Immunization Survey, the CDC's telephone
survey of the parents of some 9,000 toddlers ages 19 months to 35 months.
Many of the parents who delayed or refused vaccinations worried about
whether the vaccines were safe or effective:
- 27% said too many shots were recommended.
- 26% questioned whether vaccines really worked.
- 25% cited worries that vaccines might cause autism.
- 24% worried about side effects.
Forty-four percent of those who missed a vaccination did so because
their child was sick at the time of the scheduled vaccination. And there were a
lot of other non-safety reasons for delay, Rodewald says.
Rodewald says 20% of parents who delayed their child's vaccination did so
because the vaccination appointment was inconvenient. Another 17% said they
simply missed the appointment. Other non-safety issues included not having
transportation or not being able to afford the cost of the vaccination.
And Rodewald also notes that kids were more likely to miss a vaccination in
2008 than in 2005 because four more multi-dose vaccinations were added to the
The good news, Rodewald says, is that only about 1% of parents refuse all
vaccination for their kids -- a rate that hasn't changed much.
The bad news, he says, is that for whatever reason, more parents are
delaying vaccination and the fraction of parents who refuse or delay at least
one vaccination for their child went up,
"We worry about delayed vaccination, because it increases the length of time
a child is unprotected," Rodewald tells WebMD. "The schedule is designed the
way it is because most of the morbidity and mortality from vaccine-preventable
diseases occurs at the younger ages."
Parents' Vaccine Beliefs
When CDC researchers probed what parents thought about vaccines, they turned
up some interesting data.
When asked if they believed that vaccines are necessary to protect
- 96% of parents who did not delay or refuse vaccination agreed.
- 95% of parents who delayed vaccination agreed.
- 88% of parents who refused at least one vaccination but did not delay
getting others agreed.
- 70% of parents who refused at least one vaccination and delayed at least
one other agreed.
"Even among vaccine refusers, it's not like zero percent believe in
vaccination," Rodewald says.
Some parents feel it's not necessary to vaccinate their child because so
many other children are vaccinated. But this so-called "herd immunity" does not
protect individual kids.
"Parents who do that are putting their child at risk and they are putting
their peers and neighbors at risk as well," Rodewald says.
CDC researcher Philp J. Smith, PhD, reported the preliminary survey findings
at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting held May 1-4 in Vancouver, British