Pediatrician wants vaccine policy makers to pay more attention to vaccine-preventable complications
Pediatricians would like to see vaccine policy makers pay closer attention to the rising number of children seen in US hospitals after receiving vaccines, says Dr Anne Schuchat, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In a paper published in the journal Pediatrics today, Schuchat reviewed vaccine-preventable health complications in children of all ages, specifically the number of cases in children who have not been vaccinated. It found a steady rise in the number of cases seen in adults and children, especially in children – from an estimated 112,000 in 2013 to 135,000 in 2014.
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“In the public health arena there hasn’t been as much attention paid to that,” Schuchat said in an interview.
By and large, the reasons for the rise in reports of cases include an increase in the overall number of children not vaccinated against vaccine-preventable diseases; a general increase in the number of all children with acute complications, especially at young ages; and an increased number of children admitted to hospitals for treatment of vaccine-preventable illnesses.
There is also an increased attention to the fact that the pneumococcal vaccine has been linked to the serious health effects in children, Schuchat said.
According to a CDC report in 2014 that Schuchat reviewed, almost one in eight children (8%) who were hospitalized for vaccine-preventable illness had taken two or more vaccines.
“Vaccines are very good in protecting children against disease,” Schuchat said. “They also protect against complications if there is a complication. They can save lives.”
In addition to the 122,000 children admitted to hospitals with vaccine-preventable complications, there were an estimated 680,000 pediatric hospitalizations with these complications. That’s nearly double the 49,400 children admitted in 2013.
Chronic conditions appear to be a contributing factor to a rise in the number of cases, Schuchat said.
“Childhood autoimmune disorders and asthma have all grown,” she said. “A lot of it is due to lifestyle factors. We see a lot of kidney problems.”
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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Vaccine Information Center have a number of recommendations to help identify children who might need to receive additional vaccines or who are at higher risk for serious conditions. For more information on the strategies for prevention and the recommended number of vaccines children should receive, go to www.aap.org and www.NVIC.org
Schuchat said the agency is not recommending less vaccinations for children, because public health work without public health magic. “Vaccines have been proven to be very safe and effective,” she said. “We know about their safety. There is no harm in them. We know they are very effective.”
She noted that there are numerous advantages for children including protection against diseases and whether or not a child needs a booster vaccination.
The concern now is how to improve vaccination rates. Public health officials are recommending that states require two doses of all vaccines except the human papillomavirus vaccine, which the CDC recommended that all girls get because it protects against a sexually transmitted disease that can cause cervical cancer. The national vaccination rates for the flu vaccine in 2014, were 25.3%, down from 31.8% in 2013.
Some states have declined to require the HPV vaccine. Schuchat said those policies are “concerning.”
Another report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the average wait for vaccination appointments in 2014 was 19 days, compared to 11 days in 2002.
The number of doctor visits for flu vaccines rose from 35,589 in 2006 to 102,130 in 2014.