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Why Aren’t Some Kids or Their Siblings Getting Vaccinated?

Photograph by Twenty20

While doctors have been vocal for years about the lack of evidence to suggest that vaccinations cause autism, many parents are still refusing to get their kids immunized. And, it turns out, healthy children aren’t the only ones at risk.

New evidence, published in JAMA Pediatrics, now suggests that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their younger siblings are also in danger of suffering vaccine-preventable diseases.

In a recent study, researchers at Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed vaccination records of more than 3,700 children from 1995 to 2010—who were diagnosed with autism by the age of 5—and compared them against 592,907 children without ASD who had received vaccines between 1 month and 12 years of age.

"In this large and comprehensive study, we found that after children received an autism diagnosis, the rates of vaccination were significantly lower when compared with children of the same age who did not have an autism diagnosis," said lead author Ousseny Zerbo, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow with the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research.

We found that after children received an autism diagnosis, the rates of vaccination were significantly lower when compared with children of the same age who did not have an autism diagnosis.

“There were large disparities in vaccination rates between children with and without autism spectrum disorders, as well as between their siblings, across all age groups and after adjusting for important confounding factors," added Nicola Klein, senior author and director of the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center.

For instance, only 82 percent of children with ASD over the age of 7 were vaccinated between the ages of 4 to 6. Meanwhile, 94 percent of children without ASD received the appropriate vaccinations. As for their younger siblings, 73 percent related to those with ASD received their recommended first-year shots compared with 85 percent of younger siblings of children without autism.

"Numerous scientific studies have reported no association between childhood vaccination and the incidence of autism spectrum disorders," said co-author Frank DeStefano, MD, MPH, from the CDC's immunization safety office. "Nonetheless, this new study suggests that many children with autism and their younger siblings are not being fully vaccinated.”

Though the study doesn't explain why parents continue to shun vaccines or how we can persuade them into thinking otherwise, DeStefano believes that knowledge is power and continued research will make a difference, especially for children with ASD and their siblings.

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