According to the Washington Post, federal health data released on October 11 shows that the percentage of children under age 2 who have not received vaccinations has quadrupled since 2001. To be more specific, 1.3 percent of children born in 2015 did not receive any vaccinations, in comparison to 0.9 percent in 2011. The number was even smaller in 2001, with 0.3 percent of babies 19- to 35-month-olds who were unvaccinated. While there are no exact survey results for 2016, it is assumed that the pattern continued, which experts are saying is a public health risk.
Amanda Cohn, a pediatrician and senior adviser of vaccines for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, believes there could be up to 100,000 children under age 2 who are not vaccinated against 14 illnesses. While this number is smaller in comparison to the 8 million children who are receiving immunizations, Cohn says there is still a risk of lasting damage.
“This is something we’re definitely concerned about,” she said of the research results.
Cohn pointed out that there are many factors for children not getting immunized, from misinformation being spread to insurance coverage, to a combination of both. She added that many parents are unaware of the federally-funded Vaccines for Children program, which allows uninsured children or children under Medicaid to get their shots for free. It was noted that 7 percent of children who were uninsured did not get vaccinations in 2017, which is overwhelming in comparison to the 0.8 percent of insured children who didn’t and the 1 percent of Medicaid-insured children.
Another trend researchers noticed was that children in rural areas were less likely to have vaccinations, with an entire 2 percent not getting their shots in 2017. This number is twice as much as the percentage of unvaccinated children living in more urban areas. A person’s location can affect child care, transportation, and/or a shortage of pediatricians, which can also be a make-or-break factor in a child getting vaccinated.
Most states require children to get vaccinated in order to attend school, but a small number of states will allow exemptions for reasons such as religious or philosophical beliefs. About 2.2 percent of children have been exempted, and while this is a low percentage, this is reportedly the third year in a row where the number of unvaccinated children has grown higher.
If this trend continues, experts believe serious illnesses, such as measles, will become commonplace again. Minnesota had the worst measles outbreak in decades last year, with the primary reason being the spread of false information.
“Parents may not be aware of this, so this may be an education issue,” Cohn explained.