Vaccination rates lagging in children with commercial health plans

Rates of vaccination among children insured by commercial health plans dropped almost four percent between 2008 and 2009, while the vaccination rates among children on Medicaid is rising, a recent report has revealed.

"Rates had been gradually improving in the commercial plans," Sarah Thomas, vice president of public policy and communication for the National Committee for Quality Assurance, said, according to "This was the first time we'd seen a drop -- and it was a pretty big drop."

The results come from the recently released National Committee for Quality Assurance's annual State of Health Care Quality report. Although the report concludes that vaccination rates last year were still higher among children with private plans than those on Medicaid, some experts suspect a counterintuitive trend in American demographics might be playing out, according to

In this reoccurring scenario, parents in relatively high socio-economic brackets are forging immunization records because they fear the safety of the vaccines, while poor individuals are taking advantage of free or low-cost care to have their children immunized.

"We didn't really explore the reasons [for the trend], but one leading hypothesis is that parents have decided not to get their children vaccinated because of concerns about the potential for side effects and even autism," Thomas said, reports.

The view that vaccines cause autism, while hyped by several Hollywood stars, is not supported by scientific evidence.

"I would argue that parents are doing what they think is the best for their children; they're just misinformed," Dr. Robert W. Frenck, Jr., professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, said, according to "Another idea is that people have bigger deductibles and that may have created some decreases in the use of these services as parents decide they don't want to spend money."

The report from the National Committee for Quality Assurance, however, found drops in the vaccination rates for routine illnesses. Measles, mumps and rubella vaccination declined from 93.5 percent in 2008 to 90.6 percent in 2009, reports. Diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough vaccinations dropped from 87.2 to 85.4 percent. Chickenpox vaccinations dropped 92 percent to 90.6 percent during the same period.