The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 14 different vaccinations children should receive between birth and the age of 6.
To reap all of the potential benefits, parents are encouraged to comply with the suggested immunization schedule – many vaccines reach the peak of efficiency when administered at a specific age.
Due to the largely unfounded rumour that vaccination may lead to autism later in life, however, many parents have become reluctant to go through with this routine procedure, causing several outbreaks of measles and other fully preventable diseases.
To determine just how often parents ask their doctors to delay vaccinating their children, and how many of these requests are granted, Dr. Alison Kempe, Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and colleagues, sent surveys via e-mail and mail to a nationally representative sample of 815 paediatricians and family doctors between June and October of 2012.
Their findings were published March 2nd of 2015 in the journal Pediatrics.
The surveys asked the physicians how often they received requests to spread out the immunization schedule of children under the age of 2, how they responded and what were the reasons behind their responses.
In a typical month, of the 534 (66%) paediatricians and family doctors who responded to the surveys, 93% said they received requests to spread out vaccines, with 21% of respondents revealing they received such requests from 10% or more parents.
Even though most physicians (87%) thought these parents were putting their children at risk and 84% thought changes to the recommended schedule would make the process more painful, most reported they usually submit due to the fear of parents leaving their practice (80%). As many as 82% of the respondents also thought yielding to their clients’ requests builds trust.
The reasons for such requests supplied by the parents included fears about autism, concern over short- and long-term health complications and the belief that their children are less likely to contract vaccine-preventable disease in the first place.
Kempe and her team also emphasized how much pressure paediatricians regularly face at their jobs. Most have only about 18 minutes per clinic visit to persuade parents to vaccinate their children, perform exams and discuss such critically important things as proper sleep routines and nutrition.
As much as half of this time is often spent on arguments over the benefits and ostensible dangers of vaccination.
The research team claims that delaying and spreading out childhood vaccines increases the window of time when both children and other vulnerable populations can contract disease:
“Virtually all providers encounter requests to spread out vaccines in a typical month and, despite concerns, most are agreeing to do so. Providers are using many strategies in response but think few are effective. Evidence-based interventions to increase timely immunization are needed to guide primary care and public health practice,” wrote the authors in their paper.
As of 20 February, the CDC has identified 154 cases of measles (a disease that was 99% eradicated through vaccination, until the inception of the “anti-vax” movement in 2008) in 17 U.S. states stemming from three different outbreaks.
In 2014 the number grew to a record-breaking 644 cases in 27 states.