Rate of un­vac­ci­nated U.S. kids has quadru­pled since 2001

Toronto Star - - INSIGHT - LENA H. SUN

A small but in­creas­ing num­ber of chil­dren in the United States are not get­ting some or all of their rec­om­mended vac­ci­na­tions. The per­cent­age of chil­dren un­der 2 years old who haven’t re­ceived any vac­ci­na­tions has quadru­pled in the past 17 years, ac­cord­ing to fed­eral health data re­leased Thurs­day.

Over­all, im­mu­niza­tion rates re­main high and haven’t changed much at the na­tional level. But a pair of re­ports from the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion about im­mu­niza­tions for preschool­ers and kinder­gart­ners high­lights a grow­ing con­cern among health of­fi­cials and clin­i­cians about chil­dren who aren’t get­ting the nec­es­sary pro­tec­tion against vac­cine-pre­ventable dis­eases, such as measles, whoop­ing cough and other pe­di­atric in­fec­tious dis­eases.

The vast ma­jor­ity of par­ents across the coun­try vac­ci­nate their chil­dren and fol- low rec­om­mended sched­ules for this ba­sic pre­ven­tive prac­tice.

But the re­cent up­swing in vac­cine skep­ti­cism and out­right re­fusal to vac­ci­nate has spawned com­mu­ni­ties of un­der­vac­ci­nated chil­dren who are more sus­cep­ti­ble to dis­ease and pose health risks to the broader pub­lic.

Of chil­dren born in 2015, 1.3 per cent had not re­ceived any of the rec­om­mended vac­ci­na­tions, ac­cord­ing to a CDC anal­y­sis of a na­tional 2017 im­mu­niza­tion sur­vey. That com­pared with 0.9 per cent in 2011 and with 0.3 per cent of 19- to 35-month-olds who had not re­ceived any im­mu­niza­tions when sur­veyed in 2001.

As­sum­ing the same pro­por­tion of chil­dren born in 2016 didn’t get any vac­ci­na­tions, about 100,000 chil­dren who are now younger than 2 aren’t vac­ci­nated against 14 po­ten­tially se­ri­ous ill­nesses, said Amanda Cohn, a pe­di­a­tri­cian and CDC’s se­nior ad­viser for vac­cines. Even though that fig­ure is a tiny frac­tion of the es­ti­mated eight mil­lion chil­dren born in the last two years who are get­ting vac­ci­nated, the trend has of­fi­cials wor­ried.

“This is some­thing we’re def­i­nitely con­cerned about,” Cohn said. “We know there are par­ents who choose not to vac­ci­nate their kids ... there may be par­ents who want to and aren’t able to (get their chil­dren im­mu­nized).”

Some dis­eases, like measles, have made a re­turn in the United States be­cause par­ents in some ar­eas have failed or cho­sen not to vac­ci­nate their chil­dren.

Last year, Min­nesota suf­fered a measles out­break, the state’s worst in decades. It was sparked by anti-vac­cine ac­tivists who tar­geted an im­mi­grant com­mu­nity, spread­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion about the measles vac­cine. Most of the 75 con­firmed cases were young, un­vac­ci­nated So­mali Amer­i­can chil­dren.

The data un­der­ly­ing the lat­est re­ports does not ex­plain the rea­son for the in­crease in un­vac­ci­nated chil­dren.

In some cases, par­ents hes­i­tate or refuse to im­mu­nize, of­fi­cials and ex­perts said.

In­sur­ance cov­er­age and an ur­ban-ru­ral dis­par­ity are likely other rea­sons for the trou­bling rise.

Kaiden Whittman, 3, re­ceives a flu shot from med­i­cal as­sis­tant Gigi Her­nan­dez at Ad­vo­cate Chil­dren's Hos­pi­tal.

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