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    More Than 1 in 10 Parents Don't Follow Vaccination Schedule

    Researcher Predicts Continued Increase, Risk of Disease Outbreaks

    Vaccination Schedules & Parents: Survey Findings continued...

    Also troubling, she says, are some other findings. "We found almost a third of parents who are on an alternate vaccine schedule started out on a recommended schedule." And more than a fourth of those still following the recommended schedule said they thought delaying vaccines was safer.

    Those most likely not to follow the schedule didn't have a regular health care provider. However, Dempsey isn't sure which situation came first. She doesn't know if those who tweak the schedule have a difficult time finding a doctor or that these parents who don't get regular health care are the ones who tend not follow the schedule.

    Dempsey reports compensation for serving on an advisory board for Merck related to the male human papillomavirus vaccination. The company did not participate in this study.

    Alternative Vaccination Survey: Perspective

    Another expert sees reason for concern about the 13%. "People who refuse vaccines tend to be clustered geographically," says Saad Omer, PhD, MPH, MBBS, assistant professor of global health, epidemiology and pediatrics at the Emory University Schools of Public Health and Medicine and the Emory Vaccine Center.

    That, in turn, can create what he calls a ''critical mass" of people to trigger a disease outbreak.

    "There is a reason why there is a schedule," says Omer. "The risk of preventable disease is not constant. One of the reasons we give vaccines at a certain age is the children are vulnerable at a certain age."

    Another problem, he says, is that as parents spread out the vaccinations, the risk of not completing the recommended ones increases.

    The CDC maintains a schedule of recommended vaccines on its web site, www.cdc.gov/vaccines/recs/schedules/child-schedule.htm

    Parents who decline vaccines often depend on so-called ''herd immunity," says Karlen Luthy, assistant professor of nursing at Brigham Young University, Provo. She has researched vaccination practices.

    Under herd immunity, when a large part of the population has been vaccinated, it is thought to provide some protection for those who have not been vaccinated nor had the disease.

    However, Luthy says herd immunity ideally is meant to protect children who can't get vaccinated -- due to being organ transplant recipients, for instance. When parents of children who could be vaccinated decide not to, she says, "we are putting the lives of some of these other children at risk."

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