One-third of US children do not follow vaccine schedule, Emory study shows

Woodruff Health Sciences Center | Feb. 21, 2020

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Catherine Morrow
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catherine.a.morrow@emory.edu

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Robert Bednarczyk, PhD, is senior author on a study showing that an alarming rate of children do not follow the vaccine schedule reccomended by the CDC.

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A study recently published in Pediatrics suggests that more than one-third of children in the United States do not receive vaccines on schedule as recommended by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), leaving children vulnerable to preventable infections, diseases, and their complications. 

Robert Bednarczyk, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Global Health in Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health, is senior author of the paper. 

“It is notable that even for children who did not adhere to the recommended schedule, some did reach up-to-date status in childhood, but at the cost of additional vaccination visits – approximately 3 additional visits were needed to get to up-to-date status,” says Bednarczyk.

“These early vaccine delays can lead to an increased burden on the healthcare system, while also leaving children vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases. 

Most U.S. children are vaccinated against 14 potentially serious illnesses by age 2, as recommended by the ACIP.

Using 2014 federal data to classify vaccination patterns, the researchers found that 63% of children received vaccines according to the recommended ACIP dose- and age-specific schedule, while 23% followed an “alternate” schedule that either limited the number of shots per visit or skipped at least one vaccine series. Another 14% followed an “unknown/unclassifiable” schedule not in-line with ACIP recommendations. 

The findings, researchers say, highlight a need for targeted interventions to minimize vaccine delays that put individual and public health at risk.