Health and Science

Day care vaccination laggards vex parents

File photo of a young girl receiving and H1N1 vaccination in Washington, D.C.
Jewel Samad | AFP | Getty Images

Add a "V" to those "ABCs"—or you could be losing some business.

A large majority of parents say they would consider yanking their kids out of a day care provider if they found out that even a minority of children there were not up to date with their vaccinations, according to a national poll of parents.

And the vast majority of parents "strongly agree" or "agree" that all kids in day care centers should be vaccinated, and that providers should review that immunization status annually, the poll by the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan found.

Just 1 in 10 parents support allowing a kid without any vaccines to attend day care, with or without a waiver.

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The poll, which was highlighted by an NPR report on Monday, questioned parents of kids up to the age of 5. The survey's results struck researchers with the level of worry parents had about a lack of vaccinations or adequate booster shots.

Nearly 3 out of every 4 of those parents surveyed said they'd consider removing their kids from a day care center if just 1 in 4 children there lacked up-to-date shots—a level of compliance that researchers picked because it is around what is seen nationally year to year.

"I am surprised" with that result, said Sarah Clark, associate director of the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, in an interview with

"Being a parent myself, I know that changing day care is not something that people take on lightly," Clark said.

But parents clearly are concerned with the possibility of their kids getting sick from another child in day care. That worry was reflected in the fact that 66 percent of those polled said they should be told by their day care center just how many kids there are not up to date with their shots.

And if a kid isn't up to date, 41 percent of parents favor banning the kid from the day care until they are thoroughly vaccinated.

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Clark said the findings suggest that day care providers could benefit financially from requiring all kids to be up to date with their vaccines.

"That might be a good business decision by day cares, to assure parents that they are providers who are looking out for their kids' health and safety," she said.

Clark noted that all states have minimum vaccination standards for licensed day care providers. But, she added, there are differences both in the minimum vaccinations that states require and how often those vaccinations are required to be updated.

"There's quite a wide range," she said.

When parents were asked in the poll how much they agreed that kids in day care centers should have up-to-date vaccinations, 59 percent said "strongly agree," and another 22 percent "agree." There was a small overall drop-off when people were asked about home-based day care: 47 percent of respondents said they strongly agree there should be up-to-date vaccinations for kids, and another 24 percent said they agreed with that idea in that setting.

Clark said kids should be regularly updated for their vaccines.

"Especially in day care, you have a lot of little germy things all in one enclosed space," she said.

Despite that, around 25 percent of kids in a given year end up lacking up-to-date shots, Clark said.

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While much media attention has focused on the refusal by some parents to vaccinate their children, Clark said "that tends to be a small part" of the percentage who don't have up-to-date vaccinations.

"It's that there are people who simply get behind on their [doctors'] visits," she said. "A kid may not be up to date without their parents ever intending that to happen ... anybody that has kids in the preschool age group knows it's kind of a hectic lifestyle for a few years."