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