Abstract Outbreaks of vaccine preventable infections have focused attention on ‘missed opportunities’ for immunizing children. The immunization status of 520 consecutive children attending Casualty during a 10 day period was studied. Only 70% of children had received their diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (DTP) and poliomyelitis immunization at the appropriate time, 13% had completed the schedule later than recommended and 17% had immunizations overdue by 4 weeks or more. For measles (mumps/rubella) vaccine (MM or MMR) 75% were up to date, 10% were given late and 15% were overdue.
A subset of 171 families was interviewed to evaluate factors affecting compliance. Families possessing a Social Security ‘Health Care Card’, whose father was unemployed, who spoke poor English or who had lived in Australia for 5 years or less were significantly more likely (P<0.02) to be inadequately immunized. There were 84 children whose immunization was overdue and who were well enough to be immunized. The parents of 70 (83%) of these 84 said that they would agree to ‘on the spot’ immunization if it were available; 14 (17%) parents refused, the commonest reason for refusal being that the parents felt that the child was too sick at the time to be immunized.