Vaccines are one of the most effective tools available for the prevention of childhood diseases. As such, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, under the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommends routine vaccination for children by the age of 24 months for 14 serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses.
Recent data from the CDC shows that coverage with most recommended vaccines remained stable and high in 2017 among children ages 19 to 35 months across the United States.
For example, total coverage exceeded 90 percent for the recommended doses of poliovirus, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), hepatitis B and varicella (chickenpox) vaccines.
However, children were least likely to be up to date with the recommended doses of hepatitis A vaccine (59.7 percent coverage), rotavirus vaccine (73.2 percent) and the combined 7-vaccine series (70.4 percent).
Furthermore, the report found that while the proportion of children who had received no vaccine doses by 24 months was low, the perecentage had increased gradually from 0.9 percent for children born in 2011 to 1.3 percent for the cohort born in 2015.
“This increase means that there are about 100,000 children under 2 years old that are not protected against potentially serious vaccine preventable diseases,” Amanda Cohn, Senior Advisor for Vaccines at the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told Newsweek.
In fact, the data shows that the percentage of American children under two years of age who have received no vaccinations has quadrupled since 2001.
The report also showed how coverage varied depending on a number of factors, including state, rural/urban location, ethnicity, poverty and insurance status.
For example, children living outside “Metropolitan Statistical Area principal cities” had a higher prevalence of unvaccinated children (1.9 percent) compared with children in these areas (1.0 percent.) Meanwhile, coverage was lower among uninsured or Medicaid-insured children.
There were significant variations among states. For example, estimated rotavirus coverage ranged from 64.7 percent in California to 85.1 percent in Rhode Island. Meanwhile, coverage for MMR ranged from 85.8 percent in Missouri to 98.3 percent in Massachusetts.
According to the CDC, some children might be unvaccinated because of choices made by parents, whereas for others, lack of access to health care or health insurance might be factors.
“Parental choice may play some role, but CDC’s data suggest that many of these parents do want to vaccinate their children, but they may not be able to get vaccines for them,” Cohn said. “They may face hurdles, like not having a health care professional nearby, not having time to get their children to a doctor, and/or thinking they cannot afford vaccines.”
CDC officials say that the latest research has several implications.
“We hope this report is a reminder to healthcare professionals to make a strong vaccine recommendation to their patients at every visit and make sure parents understand how important it is for their children to get all their recommended vaccinations on time,” Cohn said. “The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program helps reduce financial hurdles parents face when trying to get their children vaccinated and protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.”
(Parents who need help paying for vaccines for their children can learn more about the VFC program here.)
Another recent study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, found that a social movement of public health vaccine opposition has been growing in the United States in recent years.
“Since 2009, the number of “philosophical-belief” vaccine nonmedical exemptions (NMEs) has risen in 12 of the 18 states that currently allow this policy: Arkansas (AR), Arizona (AZ), Idaho (ID), Maine (ME), Minnesota (MN), North Dakota (ND), Ohio (OH), Oklahoma (OK), Oregon (OR), Pennsylvania (PA), Texas (TX), and Utah (UT),” the PLOS ONE study authors wrote in their paper.
This movement has created several “hotspot” metropolitan areas which stand out for their very large numbers of NME’s.
These include, in the Northwest, King and Spokane counties, in Washington, and Multnomah County, in Oregon; in the Southwest, Maricopa County, in Arizona, Salt Lake and Utah counties, in Utah, and Harris, Tarrant, Collin, and Travis counties, in Texas; and in the Midwest, Oakland, Macomb, Wayne and Jackson counties, in Missouri.
Below is a list of the states with the lowest estimated vaccination rates, according to vaccine type (listed in the CDC study) and reflecting the percentage of children ages 19 to 35 months vaccinated.
MMR (measles, mumps and rubella)
Missouri – 85.8 percent
Indiana – 87.0 percent
Colorado – 87.2 percent
DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis vaccine)
Alaska – 75.1 percent
Missouri – 77.0 percent
Wyoming – 77.6 percent
Hep A (hepatitis A)
Missouri – 43.9 percent
Wyoming – 46.4 percent
Mississippi – 49.8 percent
California – 64.7 percent
Nevada – 66.0 percent
Ohio – 67.2 percent
Combined 7-Vaccine Series
Georgia – 65.6 percent
South Carolina – 66.0 percent
Minnesota – 66.1 percent