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Temporal Trends in Undervaccination: A Population-Based Cohort Study

      Introduction

      Monitoring the trends in undervaccination, including that because of parental vaccine refusal or delay, can inform public health responses directed at improving vaccine confidence and vaccination coverage.

      Methods

      A retrospective cohort study was conducted in the Vaccine Safety Datalink. The cohort included all children born in 2004–2017 with ≥3 well-child visits between ages 2 and 23 months. Using electronic health record–based vaccination data, the average days undervaccinated was calculated for each child. Undervaccination patterns were assessed through age 23 months. Temporal trends were inspected for inflection points and were analyzed using linear regression. Nested within the cohort study, a survey was conducted to compare parent reports of vaccine refusal or delay with observed vaccination patterns. Data were analyzed in 2020.

      Results

      The study cohort consisted of 808,170 children. The percentage of children with average days undervaccinated=0 (fully vaccinated, no delays) rose from a nadir of 47.1% for the birth year 2008 to 68.4% for the birth year 2017 (ptrend<0.001). The percentage with no vaccines rose from 0.35% for the birth year 2004 to 1.28% for the birth year 2017 (ptrend<0.001). Consistent vaccine limiting was observed in 2.04% for the birth year 2017. Omission of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine peaked at 4.76% in the birth year 2007 and declined thereafter (ptrend<0.001). On the parent survey (response rate 60.2%), a high proportion of parents of the most undervaccinated children reported refusing or delaying vaccines.

      Conclusions

      In a 14-year cohort study, vaccination timeliness has improved. However, the small but increasing number of children who received no vaccines by age 23 months warrants additional attention.
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