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New scheduler helps track kids' shots

June 26, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
New numbers from the CDC indicate more than a quarter of all U.S. toddlers 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 and it's hard," said Louise Marsaa, Grace's mother.

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," said Pinar Keskinocak, Ph.D. Associate Professor at Georgia Institute of Technology.

Using computer science and mathematical models, Dr. Keskinocak and her colleagues at Georgia Tech and the CDC have created this 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," said Faram Engineer, Ph.D. student at Georgia Institute of Technology.

Parents or physicians can put in a child's birthday and what vaccinations they've already received, and 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, pediatrician Dr. Robert Harrison 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," said Dr. Harrison.

Helping babies like Grace grow up healthier.

Researchers say the computerized tool will help doctors and parents keep up with changing rules and requirements for childhood vaccinations.

 

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