A new study by researchers at the University of Michigan concludes that one in ten parents are following an alternative vaccination schedule for their children, forgoing the one recommended by such groups as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control.
The study, published today in Pediatrics, found that parents who prefer not to follow the established schedule for giving children vaccines are primarily either refusing certain vaccines (53%) or delaying certain vaccines until the child is older (55%). A minority (17%) are choosing to skip the shots altogether. Flu shots were the most likely to be delayed or skipped.
The Associated Press reports that even parents who follow the regular schedule are still considering switching to an alternative one:
“Worries about vaccine safety were common even among parents whose kids were fully vaccinated: 1 in 5 among that group said they think delaying shots is safer than the recommended schedule.”
Child health advocates are concerned that those who choose an alternative schedule are putting others at risk. In an interview with USA Today, Douglas Diekema, a doctor and bioethicist at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, outlined some of those concerns, explaining, “Children whose parents opt out of one or more vaccines are 22 times more likely to contract measles and nearly six times more likely to contract whooping cough, according to background research cited in the study. Unvaccinated babies are particulary vulnerable, because newborns are at greater risk of complications from many infections.”
Just last month, the Centers for Disease Control announced that early childhood vaccinations are on the rise. They reported that, “Compared with the previous year, vaccine coverage increased for many vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles, mumps and rubella, rotavirus, pneumococcal disease, hepatitis A, and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib).” Yet the alternative vaccine schedule, promoted by such well-known physicians as Dr. Robert Sears, has gained popularity.
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