Context: Studies have noted that health care professionals may not conform to proper immunization schedules for premature and low-birth-weight infants in the United States. Little is known about the success of current efforts to immunize these high-risk infants.
Objective: To describe current immunization practices for premature and low-birth-weight infants and ascertain risk factors for poor immunization status, using large population-based data sources.
Design and setting: Cohort and case-control analyses of immunization data tracked from March 1991 through March 1997 for 3 large health maintenance organizations (HMOs) participating in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Vaccine Safety Datalink project.
Participants: A total of 11580 low-birth-weight and premature infants were enrolled from birth to age 2 months; 6832 of these were continuously enrolled from birth to age 24 months. At age 2 months, there were 173373 full-term, normal-birth-weight infants enrolled as controls; at age 24 months, there were 103 324.
Main outcome measures: Age-specific immunization status by prematurity and birth weight (<1500 g, 1500-2500 g, born at <38 weeks' gestation with birth weight of >2500 g, or full-term with normal birth weight) and patient characteristics associated with up-to-date status.
Results: At each age, infants weighing less than 1500 g at birth had lower up-to-date immunization levels than other infants. At age 6 months, 52% to 65% of infants weighing less than 1500 g were up-to-date at each of the 3 HMOs compared with 69% to 73% of those weighing 1500 to 2500 g, 66% to 80% of premature infants weighing more than 2500 g, and 65% to 76% of full-term, normal-birth-weight infants. By age 24 months, 78% to 86% of infants weighing less than 1500 g were up-to-date, significantly less than heavier infants, who had levels of 84% to 89%. Well-child preventive care strongly predicted immunization status, while concomitant pulmonary disease did not.
Conclusions: Our data suggest that infants born prematurely are vaccinated at levels approaching that of the general population, but levels of vaccination for very low-birth-weight infants lag slightly behind.