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Vaccination rates for kids of affluent parents decline

A new report from the US comparing vaccination rates of children on Medicaid and private insurance has uncovered a possible demographic trend: The rates of vaccinations are on the decline among more affluent parents. Vaccination rates for children insured by commercial plans dropped almost four percentage points between 2008 and 2009, even though the rate of children on Medicaid getting vaccinated is rising.

The report was released by the non-profit National Committee for Quality Assurance. Although vaccination rates last year were still mostly higher among children in private health plans rather than Medicaid, researchers suspect a counterintuitive trend is at work: parents in a relatively high socio-economic bracket - with more education and relatively high incomes - forgoing vaccines because of fears about their safety, with poor individuals taking good advantage of their access to free or extremely low-cost care to have their children immunized, according to the HealthDay piece. One reason may be the persistent view that vaccinations cause autism touted by celebrities, most notably Jenny McCarthy.

"I would argue that parents are doing what they think is the best for their children; they're just misinformed," said Dr. Robert W. Frenck, Jr, professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in the HealthDay piece.

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Part of that misinformation may come from "very articulate, very good-looking movie stars or personalities that are giving information about how bad vaccines are," Frenck said. "Frumpy, middle-aged doctors" are extolling the value of immunization and may not be heard above the fray.

Here in Canada, the New Brunswick government this week urged new parents to get a whooping cough vaccine as extra protection if their infants are under six months of age.

Dr. Paul Van Buynder, the province's deputy chief medical officer of health, told the CBC the vaccines will be rolled out in January to fight the infection, also known as pertussis, which affects the respiratory tract that resembles a common cold except for the prolonged coughing.

Dr. Van Buynder said the new initiative is needed to combat dropping immunization rates, the cyclical nature of the illness, with outbreaks occurring every four years, and a change in lifestyles. Recent outbreaks in Saskatchewan and B.C. are no doubt on N.B.'s radar.

They're discussing the issue over at Babble.

What do you think? As a mom, I tend to trust my family doctor. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that she's not a frumpy middle-aged man but a young, tell-it-like-it-is woman.

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More

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