Falling Immunization Rates

ABC News reports that immunization rates are falling.  Who’s fault is this?

“Traditionally, the government has measured immunization noncompliance by tallying up only missed doses of a vaccine. In this new research, the CDC recalculated immunization compliance to include vaccine lapses in addition to missed doses. Based on these new criteria, the CDC found that immunization compliance was actually 9 percentage points lower than previous estimates, dropping the compliance rate from 81 percent to 72 percent.”

When we measure compliance as missed vaccines, given that the child goes to the doctor, then we would believe that most of the fault of decreasing immunization rates is the doctors fault.  On the other hand, if we measure immunization rates as whether the child is “up to date” with their vaccines, then it could also be the fault of the parents who may not be bringing their child in for necessary check-ups.

Further, with an increasing number of vaccines required, it may be difficult for physicians to give all these vaccines.  Kids will only tolerate so many shots at a doctors visit before they start crying uncontrollably.  Elizabeth Luman of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases says “It’s a complicated schedule … and there are also a lot of vaccines and figuring out when to time them can be a bit complicated.”

Vaccine shortages may also be to blame.  Dr. David Freedman, professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, says that “In many cases when there is a shortage, physicians can’t get any, stop giving it and are not rapidly informed when it is available again. In some cases shortages or nonavailability can last a year or more.”

Some doctors propose that an immunization registry, one that would store all an individuals immunization records, could be a solution.  This way, doctors and patients would be able to know which vaccines they have received and which ones they need to get.