Premature Babies Lag in Vaccinations

Many premature babies, who are at increased risk for vaccine-preventable diseases, are not getting their vaccinations on time.

Researchers in Washington State retrospectively studied vaccination rates among 10,367 infants born between 2008 and 2018 at academic medical centers or affiliated health care settings. About 20 percent were born prematurely.

Preterm babies — those born before 37 weeks of gestation — were 23 percent less likely than full-term babies to have had the required shots by 19 months, and 27 percent less likely to have completed the series by the time they were 3 years old.

The study, in Pediatrics, recorded completions of the currently recommended combined seven-vaccine series, which includes one or more shots for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis; measles, mumps and rubella; polio, Haemophilus influenza type B, hepatitis B, varicella and pneumococcus. According to current guidelines, these vaccines should be given by the age of 18 months, with additional doses for some given later in childhood. The researchers also assessed use of the vaccines for rotavirus, hepatitis A and flu, recommended shots not included in the seven-vaccine program.

The reasons for the discrepancy are not clear, the authors write, but could include parents’ beliefs about vaccines for premature babies, or failure on the part of health care personnel to properly inform parents about their safety and efficacy for these high-risk infants.