A huge body of scientific evidence has already proven that the recommended vaccination schedule for U.S. kids is perfectly safe. But some pervasive myths about vaccines still persist — partially driven by dangerous right-wing fearmongering on the subject. Hoping to convince parents not to buy into the conspiracy theories, scientists continue to release new studies proving that it’s safe for them to vaccinate their kids on schedule, and reiterating that there’s no discernible link between vaccines and autism.
Some parents wonder if their kids are receiving too many vaccines too soon, and try to space out their children’s vaccinations so there’s more time in between their shots. In fact, up to 40 percent of parents take matters into their own hands and follow their own vaccination schedule rather that the one recommended by the CDC. But experts from the Institute of Medicine — a panel that advises the federal government on health policy — hope to change their minds. A new report from the Institute of Medicine confirms that the current childhood vaccination schedule is nothing to worry about, and it’s not a good idea to refrain from following it:
But delaying shots only prolongs the time that babies and children are vulnerable to “devastating diseases,” says co-author Pauline Thomas, an associate professor of preventive medicine at New Jersey Medical School.
“There is ample evidence that it’s not safe not to follow the schedule,” Thomas says. “It’s well known that in places where vaccines are delayed or missed, that’s where we are beginning to see vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks.”
Although the majority of doctors stand firmly behind vaccination, the issue is hotly debated among parents, particularly those too young to remember scourges like measles, polio and whooping cough. To address parents’ concerns, the Institute of Medicine has conducted more than 60 studies of vaccine safety since the 1970s.
Since children are required to receive the bulk of their vaccination before entering kindergarten, most of their shots are concentrated in their toddler years. Children receive up to 24 vaccines by their second birthday, and end up getting vaccinated against 14 different infectious diseases by the time they’re five. But it’s not randomly assigned. The CDC’s schedule is based on scientific testing that takes into account children’s immune systems, what they’re exposed to at different stages of their lives, and how the antibiotics interact with each other in the human body.
Peter Hotez, a vaccine researcher at the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, explained to USA Today that parents’ fears are simply unfounded. “The concept that you are going to overload a child’s immune system by giving too many vaccines at once makes no sense,” Hotez said. “When you play with vaccine schedules, you are playing with fire.”
In the two centuries since vaccines were first developed, they have nearly eradicated over a dozen of what used to be the most common infectious diseases in the U.S. Some vaccines, like the flu shot, aren’t foolproof — but they can still help lower the risk. 90 percent of the U.S. children who died from the flu this past winter didn’t get vaccinated for it.