More Than One-Third Of US Children Not Following Recommended Vaccine Schedule, Study Finds

Drug Topics Journal, Drug Topics April 2020, Volume 164, Issue 4

More than one-third of all children in the United States are not following the recommended vaccine schedule, according to a new study.

More than one-third of all children in the United States are not following the recommended vaccine schedule, according to a new study.

The study, published in the March issue of Pediatrics, found that only 63% of children were adhering to the early childhood immunization schedule recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).1

Approximately 1 quarter, or 23%, were vaccinating their children on what researchers designated as an “alternate” schedule that either limited the number of shots per visit or skipped at least 1 vaccination series. Another 14% of children were using an “unknown or unclassifiable” pattern, indicating that the child’s parents had either limited the shots per visit or vaccine series received or were not in line with the ACIP recommendations.

“The findings in this study reaffirm that deviations from the recommended immunization schedule, whether as the result of parents following an alternate schedule or other factors, result in many children remaining out-of-date for an extended period of time,” the study authors wrote.1

Researchers also found that those children living below the poverty line, those who had moved across state lines, or those who received vaccinations from public facilities only were more like to be in the unknown or unclassifiable category.

Children were more likely to follow an alternate schedule if they had moved across state lines, were not the first-born, lived in the Northeast, were black or multi-race, and were living below the poverty line, according to the study.

Researchers used provider-verified vaccination data from the 2014 National Immunization Survey to determine the vaccination patterns of those included in the study.

Dr. Shaliz Pourkaviani, a neonatologist, told ABC News that families often work to create a modified immunization schedule that will split up the number of vaccines a child receives at 1 time which can be a “disservice” to the baby.2


“Delaying vaccines delays the body’s ability to develop an immune response, relying on immunity from the rest of the community,” Pourkaviani said.

Pourkaviani said parents often decide to delay the vaccine schedule because of misinformation or worries about the preservatives being used in vaccines.

Dr. Ofer Levy, the director of the Precision Vaccines Program at Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts, told Healthline that the results of the study mirror a troubling trajectory on hesitancy that has emerged over the last 5 to 10 years.3

Health care providers can play an important role in combating misinformation by providing reliable and accurate information to parents.

"It is important to speak with moms and try to dissect each individual family's concerns regarding vaccines,” Pourkaviani said.2 “Often time's parents don't have a good understanding of why they are refusing, and seem to want to be a part of the anti-vaccine movement promoted by social media influencers/blogs and concepts that are not backed by reliable data."


1. Hargreaves AL, Nowak G, Frew P, et al. Adherence to timely vaccinations in the United States. Pediatrics. March 2020. Doi:

2. Safai Y. One-third of parents are delaying giving vaccines to their children: Study. ABC News. Published February 22, 2020.

3. McCarthy M. One-Third of Parents Delay Vaccinations for Their Children. Healthline. Published February 20, 2020.