BOISE -- New numbers published in the journal "Pediatrics" show more parents may be skipping or delaying vaccinations for their children. The study focuses on Oregon and shows that between 2006 and 2009 the percentage of Portland parents (a study group of nearly 100,000) rejecting the CDC's vaccination schedule nearly quadrupled.
Where Idaho stacks up
There are a lot of ways to look at the numbers to see where Idaho stacks up, but most Centers for Disease Control and Prevention numbers show Idaho has the lowest vaccination rate in the country for most age groups and vaccine types.
The Central District Health Department recommended looking at numbers for 19-35 month olds who'd had all doses of DTaP, poliovirus, MMR, HepB, varicella and PCV vaccines. The latest reporting period (July 2010-June 2011) shows 69.8% of of Oregon's toddlers are immunized as recommended. Idaho's percentage, the lowest in the country, is around 63.7%. The national average is 73.1%. Click here to see that table.
"That doesn't look real good compared to national averages. Now our challenge is in trying to find out why we are at that level," Central District Health Department spokesman Dave Fotsch said.
Health Department: Vaccines are safe
In the recent Oregon study, researchers suggested parents might be skipping or delaying shots because they're afraid of giving their children multiple shots at once. But local health department officials say the vaccines as scheduled are safe for kids.
"What they're getting through these vaccines are small amounts of antigens that help to protect them against these diseases," Fotsch said.
The study's lead author, an epidemiologist with the Oregon Health Authority says there is no scientific backing to support parents skipping or delaying.
"There's no know benefit to spacing out the shots and if you try to do that you're going to bring your kid in a lot more often to the doctor," Steve Robison, OHA Researcher, said.
Robison says the recommended number of doses is needed to build immunity. For example, only one dose of the pertussis vaccine doesn't build enough protection.
Critics: Vaccination risks outweigh benefits
Some parents choose not to vaccinate their children at all. In Idaho, that is an option.
"There's no way in a million years that you could get me to vaccinate my kids. I just would never do it," Dr. Rook Torres said.
Torres, a chiropractor, believes the number of vaccinated children could be going down because parents like him are doing more research. Torres keeps up with the latest vaccination research and gives talks on the topic.
"People wonder if putting all this stuff in their kids is the safest thing for their kids," Torres said.
Torres believes risks outweigh benefits. He says that while vaccines may work, he doesn't think kids necessarily need immunity from disease through vaccination. He also believes vaccinations may be unsafe.
"Our bodies are self-healing. They can absolutely defend themselves from these things because they're self-defending, your bodies. And they're self-healing, so your bodies can recover from these things," Torres said. "[For] people who have strong self-healing bodies and have taken really good care of themselves and parents who've made good decisions and healthy lifestyle decisions, all of these diseases are self-limiting just like the flu, your body can recover from them 100%."
Health Department officials stand by vaccinations in the amounts and times the CDC recommends.
"The number of vaccinations has really increased dramatically over the last 20 years, but the disease rates are going down because more kids are vaccinated," Fotsch said.
Central District Health says parents can opt out of vaccinating their kids for religious or personal reasons. Officials say the low vaccination rate in our state could have to do with that or parents not getting to the doctor as much. Another factor is some kids with medical conditions can't get vaccinated.
Click here to see the CDC's recommended schedule for children, adolescents and 'catch-up' vaccinations.
Dr. Torres can be reached at his office.