Delaying vaccinations is stupid

Kristen Feemster and Paul Offit were less confrontational, but I’m tired of this crap. “Delaying Vaccination Is Not a Safer Choice“:

According to a recent study of surveillance data from the Vaccine Safety Datalink published in this journal, 48.7% of children were undervaccinated at some time prior to their second birthday and 1 in 8 were undervaccinated owing to parental choice to delay or refuse certain vaccines. Undervaccination has been attributed to access to health care services and missed opportunities. Now, however, it has become increasingly evident that it is the result of vaccine hesitancy as parents question the need for certain vaccines and request alternate schedules.

A growing number of studies have investigated the predictors of requests for alternative vaccination schedules. These studies show that the decision to delay or refuse certain vaccines among parents is associated with beliefs regarding vaccine safety, efficacy, and perceived risk. While this choice may be largely grounded in parents’ desire to make the safest choice for their child, there are many reasons why delaying vaccines offers no clear benefit and puts children at unnecessary risk. The most significant consequence is increasing the amount of time an infant or young child is susceptible to a vaccine-preventable disease, often during the time when a child is most at risk for severe infection.

Vaccines are safe. They’re studied before they are released, and they are followed more closely than pretty much any other drugs. Gazillions of kids get them. They’re monitored. The Institute of Medicine recently released a report that reviewed all the data and concluded they didn’t increase the risk of “autoimmune diseases, asthma, seizures, developmental disorders, hypersensitivity, or attention-deficit disorders.” the current schedule is optimized to achieve a good immune response, achieve protection before a child might be exposed, and prevent adverse events. We didn’t pull it out of a hat.

Some parents delay vaccines because they think there are too many shots given at a time. That misses the point. From our second book:

Let’s start by recognizing that the human body has an enormous capacity to respond to potential threats.  You are constantly exposed to foreign substances that stimulate your immune system.  In a manuscript specifically designed to answer this question in the journal Pediatrics, Dr. Paul Offit and colleagues estimated that infants likely have the capacity to respond to about 10,000 vaccines at any one time.  No vaccine could “use up” the immune system.  In fact, estimates showed that if a child received 11 vaccines at one time, that might occupy about 0.1% of the immune system.  You’d never notice that.

Moreover, this argument assumes that the cells being occupied or destroyed in the vaccine response process are not replaced.  You body is constantly making new cells, though, so this never occurs.

Another point, often overlooked, is that it is not the number of vaccines, or even shots, that matters.  It’s the number of antigens in those vaccines.  Advances in technology have allowed for fewer and fewer antigens to be required to achieve a good response.  So while a single smallpox vaccine hack in the day had over 200 different proteins in it, and the 7 vaccines in the 1980’s contained more than 2000, the 11 vaccines in the currently recommended schedule have only about 125 in all.

Don’t take our word for it.  Research has shown that giving vaccines alone or in combinations does not affect their ability to achieve a response.  A trial comparing the effectiveness of the MMR and chicken pox vaccine given together and alone showed no differences in their effectiveness.  Another study comparing simultaneous administration of the MMR with DTP and polio boosters to sequential administration of the individual vaccines to be equivalent.  The same was seen when looking at adding Hepatitis B vaccines to others in infants.  Your body can easily handle the load.

In a final slam, this editorial noted that while some parents choose to delay vaccines because they think it will prevent overload, doing so increases the risk of adverse events (emphasis mine):

In this case, the results suggest that delaying administration of measles-containing vaccines increases the risk of fever and seizures, the majority of which were febrile seizures.

So delaying vaccines not only leaves your children and other children at risk for preventable illnesses, it also increases the risk of fever and seizures. Don’t do it.

@aaronecarroll

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