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Not getting vaccines on schedule can put children at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases at a time when they are especially vulnerable to complications from these illnesses. In fact, a resurgence of measles and whooping cough in the United States in recent years has been tied in part to parents refusing or delaying vaccinations for their kids.
Researchers at Emory University analyzed national vaccine data from 2014 on more than 15,000 children under age 3. They found that just over 60 percent of children had received vaccines on schedule as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Incidentally, 23 percent of children had followed an "alternate" vaccine schedule, whereby either the number of shots they received per visit was limited, or they skipped at least one vaccine series altogether. Another 14 percent of kids were categorized as having followed an "unknown" or "unclassifiable" schedule, meaning they didn't follow the CDC recommendations and might not have had vaccinations at all, according to the study published in Pediatrics.
This study didn't look at why some children aren't getting their immunizations on time. However, the authors concluded that misinformation and wariness about vaccine safety may be one of the reasons.
Poverty and trouble accessing healthcare may also explain why some kids don't get vaccinated on time. Children were less likely to have followed the recommended vaccine schedule if they lived in poverty, came from black or multiracial low-income families, or had moved across state lines, the study found.
Location also made a difference, with children in the Northeast more likely to be behind on their vaccines than kids in other parts of the country.
The CDC recommends immunizations to prevent 14 infectious diseases before age 3. These are:
- DTaP, to protect against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis
- Hepatitis A, to protect against hepatitis A, which can cause the liver disease hepatitis
- Hepatitis B, to protect against hepatitis B, which can cause the liver disease hepatitis
- Hib, to protect against Haemophilus influenza type B, which can lead to meningitis, pneumonia, and epiglottitis
- Influenza (the flu shot), to protect against the seasonal flu
- MMR, to protect against measles, mumps, and rubella (German measles)
- Pneumococcal (PCV), to protect against pneumococcal disease, which can lead to meningitis, pneumonia, and ear infections
- Polio (IPV), to protect against polio
- Rotavirus, (oral, not injection) to protect against rotavirus, which can cause severe diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and dehydration
- Varicella, to protect against chicken pox
Getting so many shots may seem like a lot for a young child. But there's no evidence that children are more likely to have a reaction to a vaccine – or multiple vaccines at once – when they're younger. Delaying vaccines, even if children get them eventually, still puts them at risk of exposure to a preventable disease.
For a personalized list and schedule of the immunizations recommended for your child, try our Immunization Scheduler.
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