All About Babies

Growing Number of Parents Are Refusing Vaccines for Their Children

At the same time, kids' vaccinations are on the rise.

Vaccination Baby Girl REDPIXEL.PL/shutterstock

More parents are refusing vaccinations for their kids, according to a concerning new report. The analysis by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, as part of its Health of America report series, notes that it's a small but growing number of parents who are opting out of having their children get recommended shots. A bit of silver lining in all of this: An increasing number of children with commercial health insurance are getting their vaccines. 

The specifics: Between 2010-2016, vaccination rates rose 12% among Blue Cross health plan members. But among 4.3% of children born in 2013, there was "documented parental refusal" when pediatricians offered to vaccinate the infants. Unnervingly, that's a 70% spike from the 2.5% rate of parental refusal that occurred in 2010.

The analysis was able to nail down these stats by looking at medical claim codes. "When a pediatrician offers to vaccinate a child, and the parent says no, the doctor puts a medical claim code for parental/guardian vaccine refusal," a Blue Cross spokesman said. "During the entire study there was a documented refusal of 3.3 percent of children," or 27,839 children who have a refusal code on their medical claim from a doctor," Blue Cross explained in a statement to Forbes.  

Dr. Trent Haywood, senior vice president and chief medical officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield Association said in a statement accompanying the report that this trend shows a need for more education about vaccine safety. “Continued public health efforts can increase childhood vaccination rates by simply touting the benefits of attending regular children’s checkups,” Haywood noted.

Though there is still work to be done, it's heartening to hear that overall, the percentage of kids who are "up to date" on their vaccinations is on the rise, according to the report. Among Blue Cross health plan members, nearly 70% of babies born in 2010 were "up-to-date"  on their seven series vaccinations -- those recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by the age of 2 years old and three months. And that number is on the rise -- it was 77% for children born in 2013.

Haywood concluded, “This report demonstrates that vaccine use among commercially insured people in the U. S. is increasing in the right direction."