In recent years, a handful of vaccines have stirred concern in pediatricians’ offices. Now, a major medical group says the number of vaccines that young children should receive before getting their first dose of immunizations has nearly doubled.
A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics found that the so-called minimum dose recommended by the federal government has plummeted from 10 vaccines last year to six this year.
The new report means that parents of babies and toddlers are still urged to receive six vaccines by age two. But that advice stands out in a nation that has seen one of the largest drops in vaccine effectiveness in recent years, the report said.
“Families are having to make choices that come with more misinformation,” said Dr. Melinda Wharton, director of the AAP’s Center for Vaccine Safety.
Last year, 22 out of 38 of the federal government’s recommendations, including the entire series of influenza vaccinations, were found to be ineffective, she said. And older children and teens are increasingly delaying immunizations.
Recent reports of vaccine-preventable childhood diseases such as mumps and measles have alarmed the public. But officials say that an immune system-building immune response to vaccines helps to fend off dangerous infections and allergies.
“We have an obligation to ensure that every child in the United States is adequately protected from a dangerous condition, and there’s no excuse for delaying or administering an ineffective vaccine,” said Dr. John Santa, a pediatrician and medical epidemiologist at the American College of Pediatrics. “We have enough evidence to link these outcomes with the vaccine schedule, and it is time to make improvements.”
He said there have been some studies showing that vaccines are effective until age four.
Wharton said that the low immunity among children could be a result of a mix of factors, including the absence of a threat of infection at the time of a vaccine’s injection, its difficulty in oral delivery and failure to respond to early vaccination, among other reasons.
Wharton noted that some vaccines, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis A and tetanus, are delivered via injection. But she also said that shots are administered at point-of-care clinics or hospitals in a variety of ways, including often by pediatricians and nurse practitioners, who are routinely trained to administer those vaccines.
In addition, the new AAP report found that the government’s strict recommendations were not always followed. It found that of children who received only the recommended shots at ages 1 or 2, 36 percent continued to receive the recommended number of shots after two years of age.
Just 5 percent of those receiving only the recommended vaccine at age 1 received the second dose by age 2. An additional 14 percent of children received the second dose after six months of age.
“The vaccination schedule really needs some real oversight,” said Wharton.
The AAP concluded that the vaccine recommendations, adopted by both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the federal Department of Health and Human Services, should be reevaluated.
“In some cases, screening studies are inconsistent with the results that we are seeing in the clinical setting,” said Wharton.