Chicago: Children whose parents refuse the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine appear
more likely to develop the disease, according to a report in the January issue of
Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
Routine childhood immunizations have reduced illness and death related to a wide
variety of vaccine-preventable diseases, according to background information in
the article. Recent trends, however, suggest that public trust in the national
immunization program is declining.
Expanding childhood immunization requirements and increased media coverage of
alleged associations between vaccinations and chronic illnesses have heightened
parental concerns regarding vaccine safety, the authors write. Parents have also
expressed concerns that children are at low risk of infection and that many vaccine
-preventable diseases are not serious. During the last decade, as a consequence,
the number of parents who claimed non-medical exemptions to school
immunization requirements has increased significantly.
Jason M. Glanz, Ph.D., of Kaiser Permanentes Institute for Health Research,
Denver, and colleagues studied 133 children enrolled in one health plan who
developed chickenpox between 1998 and 2008. Each case was matched to four
randomly selected children who were the same age and sex and had been enrolled
in the plan for the same amount of time, but had not developed chickenpox.
Among the 133 children who developed chickenpox, seven (5 percent) had
parents who refused the varicella vaccine, compared with three (0.6 percent)
refusals among the 493 controls. Compared with vaccine acceptors, children of
vaccine-refusing parents had a nine-fold increased risk of varicella illness, the
authors write. Overall, 5 percent of varicella cases in the study population were
attributed to vaccine refusal. We believe these results will be helpful to health care
providers and parents when discussing decisions about immunizing children.
The findings suggest that if more parents refuse vaccines, the incidence of
varicella and related complications also may increase over time, especially among
individuals at high risk of severe infection (such as pregnant women, infants and
those with compromised immune systems), the authors note. These results
provide evidence to counter the misperception among some parents that
unvaccinated children are not at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases, they
Contact: Farra Levin
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