Study Shows Over 16% of U.S. Toddlers Missing Key Vaccinations

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Fox News Reported that more than one in six toddlers in the United States are not receiving all the recommended doses of early childhood vaccines. The research, conducted by the University of Montana, analyzed vaccination records from 2019 for over 16,300 U.S. toddlers aged between 19 and 35 months for several childhood immunizations, including measles, polio, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), Hepatitis B, mumps, rubella, Haemophilus influenzae type b, varicella, and pneumococcal infections.

The study found that a significant number of children, 27.2%, had not completed the full vaccine series. The majority, nearly 73%, had completed the full series, while almost 10% did not start any of the series. However, the most concerning finding was that 17.2% of children started but did not complete one or more of the vaccine series, leaving them vulnerable to preventable diseases. The researchers stressed the need for increased efforts to encourage multi-dose series completion to achieve vaccination coverage goals and protect children from preventable illnesses. 

Factors contributing to vaccine non-compliance included moving across state lines, the number of children in the household, and lack of insurance coverage. Lower household income, living in a rented home, and race and ethnicity were also identified as risk factors. Notably, Black children were more likely to have not completed a full vaccine series compared to White children. 

Dr. Shana Johnson, a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician, stated that the study findings highlight issues in the U.S. healthcare system, including fragmented care, poor coordination across providers, a complex insurance system, and unequal access to healthcare. 

Despite these challenges, there was a glimmer of hope as 8.4% of the children required only one additional vaccine dose to complete the series. If these children had received the additional dose, the U.S. would have met the Healthy People 2020 goal of 80% coverage for vaccine series completion, according to Dr. Johnson. 

Dr. Marc Siegel, a professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center and Fox News medical contributor, also expressed concern about the declining vaccination rates, especially in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas, where highly contagious diseases could easily resurge. Dr. Siegel highlighted that maintaining over 90% compliance is essential for achieving herd immunity. 

Josh Sharfstein, a pediatrician and vice dean of public health at Johns Hopkins, shares similar concerns and fears that the “anti-vaxx movement with COVID” may be influencing resistance to childhood vaccines or leading to improper timing of vaccinations for optimal effectiveness. 

The study authors recommended providing increased support to children from low-income families and racial minority groups who are most at risk for infectious diseases and poorer health outcomes due to social and environmental determinants. Strategies to improve vaccination rates include implementing reminder systems, offering flexible scheduling, and engaging in pre-visit planning. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also offers the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program, providing free vaccines to children facing financial constraints. 

The study sheds light on the concerning trend of declining vaccination rates in toddlers. Efforts to enhance vaccination coverage are crucial to protect children from preventable diseases and achieve herd immunity. Addressing barriers to vaccination, supporting vulnerable populations, and implementing reminder systems may help improve compliance with recommended vaccine schedules. 

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