Military Connection: Are Military Children Under-Vaccinated?


By Debbie Gregory.

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate is a highly debated, hot topic issue. Some parents feel vaccinations do no harm, while others believe they cause autism. Children, however, are required to have a certain number of vaccinations and boosters before they begin school. And according to researchers, children with parents in the military may have lower vaccination rates than their peers.

Dr. Angela Dun, who led a recent study, says a check of medical records on some military children show they are either missing vaccines, or at the very least, the records of their vaccinations.

“They move around a lot, they don’t have the same primary care providers all throughout childhood,” said Dunn.

Along with her colleagues, Dunn looked at the immunization records of over 3,000 military children. They  ranged in age from 19 months to 3 years old. Approximately 28% didn’t have evidence of being up to date on their vaccines, as compared to 21% of civilian children.

Initially, Dunn said she was trying to show that a single-payer health insurance system would solve some of the problems she uncovered. She assumed the U.S. military’s Tricare health insurance plan would set as an example for the disjointed U.S. health care system, but came across the surprising results instead.

“I don’t want the message to be ‘Oh, my god, military kids aren’t being taken care of.’ We don’t know that,” she said.

Dunn was surprised to see that there are lower coverage rates in the military.

The researchers say that in addition to being military dependents, factors that made kids less likely to be up-to-date on vaccines included being younger than 30 months, having mothers without a college degree or unmarried parents, and moving from state to state or receiving vaccines from more than one health care provider.

Given the mobility inherent in military life, the lack of a single vaccine registry for all branches of the armed services might also be contributing to incomplete records, Dr. Dennis Conrad, a pediatrician at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, said

As far as finding a solution for this issue, Dunn says the 2010 Affordable Care Act seeks to encourage adoption of better electronic health records that are easily accessible to any doctor approved by a patient. This would greatly reduce the amount of lost documentation on a patient. Although it is hard to get a universal software system, it would be even harder to ensure patient privacy.

“If we can find a solution within the military system, I think that would be a great starting point for the rest of the U.S. as well.”

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Military Connection: Are Military Children Under-Vaccinated?: By Debbie Gregory