IMMUNIZATION: Some Kids Receive Too Many Vaccinations
More than one in five U.S. toddlers receive too many vaccines, tacking an additional $26.5 million on to the nation's annual health care bill, according to a study in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Using the 1997 National Immunization Survey, researchers at the CDC and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta analyzed data for 32,742 children ages 19 months to 35 months and found that 21% of toddlers received at least one extra immunization while 31% missed at least one. The polio vaccine was most likely to be overused, with more than 14% of toddlers receiving an extra dose, compared to 4.9% who received an additional hepatitis B vaccination, 3.4% who received an extra diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis combination shot and 2.5% who received additional measles vaccinations. While the study did not assess the health risks of overimmunizations, researchers cautioned that careful tracking of diphtheria and tetanus vaccinations is important due to the potential of adverse side effects associated with extra doses.
Also contributing to the likelihood of over-vaccination, was the number and type of health care providers seen by children. Fifty-six percent of toddlers who saw more than one health care provider were overimmunized. Researchers said, "The challenge now will be learning how to reduce extra immunization without interfering with the more important efforts to combat underimmunization." They suggested implementing state-based registries to track immunization histories and parent-held shot cards. Still, Dr. Robert Davis of the University of Washington's Immunization Studies Program said, "For parents and physicians who need to decide what to do with this new information now, it is important to recognize that the risk of withholding vaccinations still far outweighs concerns about cost or the small added risk of adverse events associated with extra-immunization" (Fay Cortez, Washington Times, 4/11).