Study: Some parents of young kids opt for alternative vaccination schedule

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — According to new research conducted by the University of Michigan, more than 1-out-of-10 parents of young children use an alternative vaccination schedule, a practice that may put children's health at risk.

“Small decreases in vaccine coverage are known to lead to dramatic increases in the risk of vaccine preventable disease outbreaks,” said Amanda Dempsey, study author, assistant professor in the department of pediatrics and communicable diseases and a member of the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. “Not following the recommended schedule leaves kids at risk for these diseases unnecessarily.”

When it came to who developed the alternative schedule, 41% of the parents said they developed it, 15% said a friend developed the schedule, and 8% reported using a well-known alternative schedule developed by a pediatric expert (i.e., Dr. Bob Sears). What's more, nearly one-third of parents (30%) said they had initially followed the recommended vaccination schedule, but many said they switched because it “seemed safer.”

The most commonly-delayed vaccines were measles-mumps-rubella (45%) and diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (43%).

Among those parents that adhered to the regular vaccination schedule, 25% said they thought that delaying vaccination was still safer.

The study, which was published in Pediatrics, surveyed 771 parents of children ages 6 months to 6 years during May 2010.

Dempsey also noted that an alternative vaccination schedule potentially could lead to "underimmunizaton," which could put children's health at risk.

“More resources need to be devoted to finding ways to successfully change where attitudes are going,” Dempsey said. “Clearly, this problem is not going to go away, and our data suggest it will actually get worse over time.”

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