Keeping Vaccinations On Track
Reported June 2008
ATLANTA (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- New numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate more than a quarter of all toddlers in the United States may be under-vaccinated, which can leave them unprotected against diseases like measles, mumps and even polio. Now, researchers have teamed up with the CDC to help keep kids' vaccinations on track.
Nine-week-old Grace Marsaa is getting her very first vaccinations. For her parents, it's the beginning of a long and sometimes confusing process. "You know you have all these years that you have to keep track of it -- which ones come when and everything," Louise Marsaa, Grace's mother, told Ivanhoe. "It's hard!"
A recent survey found that only nine percent of children get all their vaccinations at the recommended times. Only half receive all recommended doses by their second birthday. "If the child doesn't receive the doses on time or if some of them are given at the wrong time the vaccination doesn't have the coverage that it's supposed to," Pinar Keskinocak, Ph.D., an associate professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, told Ivanhoe.
Using computer science and mathematical models, Dr. Keskinocak, her colleagues and the CDC have created a new, interactive childhood immunization schedule. "What we offer is a computer program that in some sense gives the best possible scenario given that a child is falling behind the recommended schedule," Faram Engineer, a Ph.D. student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, told Ivanhoe. Parents or physicians can put in a child's birthday and what vaccinations they've already received. The web-based tool creates a safe and effective catch-up schedule for any vaccinations they've missed.
Thanks to operations researchers who use math to find the best solution, Robert Harrison, M.D., a pediatrician specializing in infectious disease at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, says the vaccination schedule is likely to be a big help to doctors and parents. "I think it's absolutely wonderful. It's helpful to the parents in case they have any questions about what they've had and what the limits are," Dr. Harrison told Ivanhoe.
Researchers say the computerized tool will help doctors and parents keep up with changing rules and requirements for childhood vaccinations. The interactive schedule can be downloaded for free at www.cdc.gov/vaccines.
The American Mathematical Society, the Mathematical Association of America, and the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:
Barbara Christopher, Director of ISyE Communications
H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, GA 30332-0205
American Mathematical Society
Providence, RI 02904-2294
Mathematical Association of America
Washington, DC 20036-1358
Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences
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