A Growing Number Of Parents Are Playing Doctor And Delaying Vaccines For No Good Reason
The measles coverage may have slowed down, but that doesn’t mean all is quiet on the vaccine front. AP reports a new study shows more and more parents are asking doctors for alternative vaccination schedules, or delayed vaccination. A national survey of pediatricians and family doctors found that all interviewed doctors had at least one patient requesting to delay vaccines in children under two and that 1 in 4 said those numbers had increased in the previous year.
The researchers surveyed 534 doctors by email or regular mail in 2012. Participants were doctors who are members of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians — the two leading groups of doctors who treat young children. One in 5 doctors said at least 10 percent of parents had requested vaccine delays by spreading them out over more months than is recommended.
The current recommended vaccine schedule was created to time shots to be most effective and sometimes includes multi-dose shots or getting several shots at once. Parents who opt to delay usually do so out of fear that the number of vaccines a child gets at one time is somehow related to the frequency of vaccine-related injuries. There’s no evidence to support this theory, and delays can actually do more harm than good.
Delaying shots meant to be given at a certain age means they may be less effective. It also makes it more likely that children will never get vaccinated, because parents get too busy or forget to schedule another doctor’s visit, said Dr. Robert Frenck, an infectious diseases specialist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. He was not involved in the new study.
“People just don’t understand that these diseases are all there, they’re not gone. They’re just being kept at bay right now. If people stop vaccinating, they come right back,” Frenck said.
While it may be stressful and a little bit frightening to watch your child get three or four shots in one visit, I think it’d be far more stressful and frightening to watch things like the recent measles outbreak happen and know you haven’t given your child the best chance at remaining healthy.
The measles killed 82,100 children under the age of five in 2013, coming in above drowning, car accidents, and AIDS as one of the leading global causes of child deaths. Broken down, that’s about 225 child measles deaths every single day. We don’t see numbers like that in the United States, where on average we have fewer than 2 measles deaths in any given year, because we have the privilege of being able to vaccinate against these diseases.
Paranoia about vaccines isn’t going to protect our kids; it’s going to make them sick by allowing a resurgence of preventable diseases. In spite of concerns, the numbers and the science don’t lie. There’s little reason to fear vaccines, but every reason in the world to be afraid of the illnesses they prevent.