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Thousands of US toddlers unvaccinated; health officials react

A young child receives the oral polio vaccine. (Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — A new report finds thousands of young U.S. toddlers get no vaccinations at all, but Utah health officials say there is no reason why families shouldn’t work on getting their young children vaccinated on time.

The survey from the Centers for Disease Control found a growing number of toddlers have received no immunizations at all. Utah Immunization Program Manager Rich Lakin one reason for that change could be parental choice.

“I think people get on social media and they are just getting the wrong information,” he says.

But in other cases, he believes parents may skip the vaccines because they don’t have the insurance. According to Lakin, those parents may not realize Utah has the Vaccines for Children program that offers the shots free.

While there are also people who believe diseases like polio and measles are not a danger anymore, Lakin hopes to educate them.

“Even though we don’t see the diseases, they do exist,” he says, pointing out that often, those diseases are a mere plane ride away from causing a problem here in the United States again.

“The reason you don’t see those diseases is because of immunization,” Lakin says. “And if immunizations go away, we will see these diseases return.”

The challenge, according to Lakin, is for people who cannot get the immunizations because of their own compromised systems, allergies, or other reasons. If someone else becomes sick and then passes the disease to someone who can’t be vaccinated, that person is at much higher risk of complication.

“They would be hospitalized or they could die from the disease,” Lakin says.

The CDC report found 1.3 percent of children born in 2015 have never gotten any of the recommended vaccinations. Additionally, health officials say the percentage of children ages two and under who haven’t gotten all of their vaccinations has quadrupled over the last 17 years.

Researchers did not ask parents why they had not gotten their kids the immunizations. but the CDC speculates some of it is because of ignorance or bad information. Families who lived outside of a city and families with no health insurance were less likely to be vaccinated.