MONDAY, Oct. 3 (HealthDay News) -- More than one in 10 parents
don't follow recommended vaccination guidelines for their children,
opting instead for an "alternative" schedule that could involve
skipping doses or delaying shots.
And parents who do follow official recommendations show some
inclination to move toward an alternative schedule, according to
The findings alarm the authors of the study, published in the
November issue of
"This really highlights to me that there's probably going to be a continuing increase in the number of parents who choose to follow alternative schedules," said study author Dr. Amanda Dempsey. "We really need to start allocating government and educational resources to stem the growing tide of discontent about vaccines among parents."
This isn't the first time investigators have noticed the
"There's been a trend over the past couple of decades of parents changing the vaccination schedule," said Dempsey, an assistant professor of pediatrics and communicable diseases at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor. "We've seen evidence that this can have detrimental effects because there have been more and more outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles, pertussis and mumps, [as a result of] vaccination rates being lower than recommended."
One study found that every 1 percent increase in the number of
under-immunized children doubled the risk of pertussis (whooping
In this study, the authors gave "alternative" a broad meaning,
namely anything other than the schedule recommended by the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About 750 parents of children aged 6 months to 6 years responded
to an Internet survey in May of 2010.
Thirteen percent of parents surveyed reporting using an
alternative schedule. Of these, more than half (53 percent) refused
certain vaccines and/or delayed some vaccines until a child was
older (55 percent).
The MMR (measles mumps rubella) vaccine was most commonly
delayed (45 percent of parents surveyed), and 43 percent of parents
postponed the DTaP (diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis) vaccine.
Overall, 2 percent of parents refused all recommended vaccines,
and parents most likely to adopt an alternative schedule were those
who were not black and who didn't have a regular pediatrician or
other health care provider.
About a third of respondents had at one point followed CDC
recommendations, then switched to a schedule of their own
Meanwhile, 28 percent of parents following the recommended
schedule thought delaying some doses might be safer and 22 percent
didn't think the official schedule was the best possible
The main reason for adapting the vaccine schedule seemed to be
about safety, Dempsey said.
Dempsey said in her own clinical practice that "people generally
tend to delay until after concerns about autism have abated, which
is 3- to-4 years of age."
A recent Institute of Medicine report concluded that children's
vaccines are typically safe, with bad reactions occurring only
rarely and then not causing any lasting problems.
But not all agree that those conclusions are airtight.
"These are not surprising findings and reflect the higher education level of young parents making informed health care decisions for their children today. They are more aware that vaccines are like prescription drugs and carry risks that can be greater for some children than others because, biologically, children are not all the same," said Barbara Loe Fisher, co-founder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center in Vienna, Va.
"The days when people obeyed doctors' orders without question are over. Pediatricians are going to have to get used to answering questions about vaccines and working with parents in a relationship that involves shared decision-making," she added.
View the recommended immunization schedule at the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
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