Background: Whether unvaccinated children and adolescents differ from those vaccinated in terms of health is subject to some discussion.
Method: We evaluated data on diseases that are preventable by vaccination, infectious and atopic diseases, and vaccinations received that had been collected between 2003 and 2006 in a representative sample of 17 641 subjects aged 0 to 17 years in the framework of the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents (Kinder- und Jugendgesundheitssurvey, KiGGS).
Results: Evaluable data on vaccinations were available for 13 453 subjects aged 1-17 years from non-immigrant families. 0.7% of them (95% confidence interval: 0.5%-0.9%) were not vaccinated. The lifetime prevalence of diseases preventable by vaccination was markedly higher in unvaccinated than in vaccinated subjects. Unvaccinated children aged 1-5 years had a median number of 3.3 (2.1-4.6) infectious diseases in the past year, compared to 4.2 (4.1-4.4) in vaccinated children. Among 11- to 17-year-olds, the corresponding figures were 1.9 (1.0-2.8) (unvaccinated) versus 2.2 (2.1-2.3) (vaccinated). The lifetime prevalence of at least one atopic disease among 1- to 5-year-olds was 12.6% (5.0%-28.3%) in unvaccinated children and 15.0% (13.6%-16.4%) in vaccinated children. In older children, atopy was more common, but its prevalence was not found to depend on vaccination status: among 6- to 10-year-olds, the prevalence figures were 30.1% (12.9%-55.8%) for unvaccinated children versus 24.4% (22.8%-26.0%) for vaccinated children, and the corresponding figures for 11- to 17-year-olds were 20.3% (10.1%-36.6%) versus 29.9% (28.4%-31.5%).
Conclusion: The prevalence of allergic diseases and non-specific infections in children and adolescents was not found to depend on vaccination status.