If you’re considering delaying your child’s vaccines, there are a few things you should know. The CDC has created a vaccination schedule that is recommended for all healthy, typically developing children in the United States. A baby’s first vaccine is administered shortly after birth, and throughout childhood, they receive vaccines for 16 now-preventable illnesses.
That’s over a dozen formerly devastating childhood diseases that we can reduce very effectively by following the vaccination schedule recommended by the CDC. Other countries have varied recommendations, but most developed nations use a fairly similar schedule.
There is a Mount Everest-sized stack of scientific evidence that following the CDC course is safe and effective. Still, some parents choose to forego vaccines completely. There is a calculated and lucrative anti-vaccine movement led by people with their own agenda. The leaders of the anti-vaccine movement sell books and tout their ideas as “the real truth,” calling vaccine science a mass conspiracy. They sell supplements and plans to “detox” your child if you have chosen to vaccinate before they get hold of you. Using fear and misinformation, they have successfully vilified one of the most important medical advancements in history, convincing parents that vaccines cause everything from autism and food allergies to SIDS. Some of them get rich and many get internet-famous by convincing parents to leave their children unprotected from vaccine preventable illnesses.
Anti-vaccine rhetoric is accompanied by a heaping side of ableism. As the mom of an autistic child, I find anti-vaccine culture impossible to stomach. I have seen one too many anti-vaxxers blame autism on vaccines (literal anti-science garbage) and talk about children like mine as damaged goods.
Anti-vaccine culture is toxic, deep, and all-encompassing.
But between the devoted anti-vaccine parents and the dedicated pro-science parents, there is another group.
These parents want to vaccinate their children, but fear or doubt has put them on the fence. Rather than rejecting all vaccines, some of them are making their own way, creating alternate schedules. They are choosing to vaccinate much later or limiting the number of vaccines their child can receive at each visit.
Any reasonable person can see why delaying appears to be a good compromise at first, but science shows that delaying vaccinations is actually a risk no parent should take. Let’s talk about why.
1. Delaying vaccines leaves your child at risk for vaccine preventable illnesses.
This is the biggest issue. Delaying vaccination means your child lives unprotected from the diseases vaccines can prevent for a longer time. It gives them a much longer window in which they could come down with an illness that could have been prevented with a quick needle poke.
If you’re concerned about those little pokes because you’ve heard that vaccines are “one size fits all,” well, that’s a myth. The vaccines that need to be dosed differently for babies and adults are dosed differently.
Some vaccines are just fine for a person of any size. It might seem like that means a tiny baby is getting an adult dose, but the opposite is actually true. The same tiny dose that can elicit a sufficient immune response in an infant is adequate for an adult. Vaccines are not designed to be dosed like medication.
2. Delayed vaccines may increase the risk of fever-induced seizure.
Dr. Simon Hambidge, director of general pediatrics at Denver Health, led a study that showed that risk of febrile seizure can be doubled by delaying the MMR or MMRV vaccine. He explains, “This study adds to the evidence that the best way to prevent disease and minimize side effects from vaccines is to vaccinate on the recommended schedule.”
The risk of fever-induced seizure seems to be much higher in children who receive the MMR or MMRV late. This could be because following the schedule means that your child gets the first dose of the vaccine months before the peak age for febrile seizure, and the second dose after peak age. Delaying it by a few months puts your child right at the age where a fever-induced seizure is most likely. Febrile seizures are usually not dangerous, but they are scary and unpleasant. Who wants that?
3. Foregoing the recommended schedule can interfere with vaccine safety and effectiveness.
Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, says, “No vaccine can be put onto the schedule unless there is data showing it doesn’t interfere with the other vaccines’ [effectiveness] or safety. When you choose to spread out the vaccines, you’re making something up that hasn’t been tested. You don’t know how well that schedule will work whereas the CDC schedule is well-tested.”
Multiple vaccines at one visit will not overwhelm your baby’s immune system. Our babies come in contact with hundreds of thousands of germs all over the planet just by existing. Your own home is teeming with them. The handful introduced by vaccines are a tiny drop in a very large bucket.
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5. Delayed vaccines mean more visits to the germ-infested waiting room at your doctor’s office.
By limiting the number of vaccines a child can receive at one time, you guarantee extra trips to the pediatrician as you catch them up. You do know that’s the place where sick kids congregate, right? Your kid might actually catch more viruses (even the ones that vaccines can’t prevent) simply from spending more time in a facility with sick children. Getting them all done on time means you can potentially go months without stepping foot inside your pediatrician’s office.
Dr. Vincent Iannelli, board certified pediatrician and Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, spells out clearly why delaying is a bad idea:
“There are no real benefits of delaying vaccines, except that your child gets out of one or more shots. Of course, that means your unvaccinated child is left unprotected. And it is going to mean more shots later, once you do decide to get caught up. Will it mean a lower risk of autism, ADHD, eczema, peanut allergies, or anything else? Nope.”
If you’re on the fence about whether to skip or delay vaccines, you should know that there is no scientifically supported benefit to delaying the shots. Doing so can carry some pretty big risks.
If you have questions about the importance of following the vaccine schedule, consult your pediatrician. They can explain why protecting your child on time is the right choice.