Although vaccines are one of the most effective ways to prevent infectious diseases, they have also been controversial.
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A new study finds that some concerned parents are choosing to delay shots or space them further apart. While the study focused on children in Oregon, it raises questions about whether the findings represent a more widespread national trend.
Allison Brindle, MD, a pediatrician at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital, did not take part in the study, but notices this trend.
“There seems to be a sizable increase in families who are deferring vaccines or requesting an alternate vaccine schedule,” Dr. Brindle says.
“As pediatricians, we need to continue to educate parents about the benefits of vaccines and that delaying vaccines is not beneficial and only leaves our pediatric patients susceptible to disease,” she adds.
Researchers with the Oregon Health Authority found more than 4,500 children in the Portland area who were consistently delaying vaccines recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Also, the percentage of parents who were consistently limiting shots among their 9-month-old babies rose from 2.5 percent in 2006 to 9.5 percent in 2009.
Dr. Brindle suspects further research would turn up similar findings in other states, too. She says parents have their reasons for keeping an alternative schedule.
“Parents have a variety of reasons for being leery about vaccines. Sometimes parents are concerned about the number of injections that happen in a single visit. Sometimes parents are concerned about side effects of vaccinations. Sometimes parents believe they have information that vaccines are doing harm to children.”
Researchers say negative media attention regarding vaccine safety likely contributed to the increase, but add that there is no known benefit to delaying vaccines. Dr. Brindle agrees.
“There is no benefit to postponing vaccines. If your child is eligible to receive a vaccine, they should receive it in accordance with the CDC recommended schedule,” Dr. Brindle says.
Complete findings for this study are in the journal Pediatrics.