Written by by Lindsay Ellis, CNN
The current system of vaccination for children and teenagers in the US lacks critical information on the effectiveness of vaccinations, experts say.
At a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, a recent report showed that while researchers have compiled a study on vaccines to diagnose and prevent infectious diseases, that study is lacking vital information on who is vaccinated and who is not.
“We’ve never had a comprehensive database on vaccination compliance,” Brian Collister, a microbiologist at the University of California, Davis, told CNN. “We need some kind of system that manages that, so we have all the information we need to see where the gaps are.”
The Ebola and Zika outbreaks that have occurred in the past two years have highlighted an increase in vaccine refusal as a result of public fear and misconceptions about these vaccines.
“What we see with Omicron virus is that people tend to have misconceptions about this vaccine in a similar way that they hold misinformation about newer vaccine vaccines,” said Marcus Sachs, an associate professor at the University of Texas, Austin, who authored the report. “When we go out and meet with the public, it is often in an area where there is some youth homelessness and people do not always have access to private health care. They are able to think better about these vaccines in that context.”
The study, presented this week at ASM’s conference in Washington, found that when researchers compared state-by-state data on a case-control study of unvaccinated individuals they found “no consistent relationships across the states of nonvaccination or in mismatch with effectiveness data on rates.”
Other information found by researchers does show a significant increase in unvaccinated individuals in several southern states, such as Georgia, Louisiana and Alabama. However, a recent analysis of the vaccine refusal data shows no significant change since 2014.
In order to address that issue, Sachs said the US should create “some kind of national registry on vaccination waivers and vaccine refusal and document those accurately,” and then make that data available to the public.
“The best thing we can do at this point, and I think the best step we can take, is to take the best data we have, for getting numbers, get consensus, and then report them out, so we can sort through some of the misinformation that there is about vaccines,” Sachs said.
“We can’t imagine a world without vaccines,” Sachs said. “People are saying that vaccinations are a really simple problem that needs to be solved; the reality is that we’ve spent $100 billion every year on vaccines worldwide since 2000 and this past year they spread more than 300 million inoculations.”
Sachs said one other issue that researchers have uncovered with the overall vaccine efficacy study is that some of the subjects were late.
“We estimate that the vaccination data in this paper underestimates effectiveness by around 20%, likely because some of the studies were late and therefore the accuracy may be low,” Sachs said.
Vaccine researchers are pushing Congress to complete the Vaccine Information and Outcomes Repository Act, which the legislation was passed on in November 2017 but has not been enacted yet. The law will require that researchers use the database for key research. The US is currently relying on multiple different databases for research and usage, researchers say.
“(We need) a point of reference for where the best vaccines were and where the problems are,” Collister said. “It’s time for the system to catch up with the science and get us where we need to be, where we need to be — finding us. We can’t simply rely on anecdotal evidence because things happen. There are always errors in anecdotal evidence.”
Sachs added, “Vaccines don’t work unless you get them.”
CNN contacted the Department of Health and Human Services for comment but was unable to get in touch by press time.