Health Topics

Vaccination Schedules

Vaccination Schedules

Why are so many vaccines given at once and is this dangerous?
Each vaccine contains a very small particle or antigen from a specific virus or bacteria. We know that germs are all around us. A simple outing to the store, church, or park can expose a child to more antigens than they get in the entire vaccine series. Plus, the antigens in vaccines are purified and processed to be as small as possible while still triggering a strong protective response.

Is it okay to use an alternative vaccine schedule?
We understand the rationale for spreading out the shots or waiting longer to start the series. In theory, it makes sense. Fewer pokes at a time should mean less discomfort and risk. It also should be easier to identify the cause if there is a bad reaction. Waiting until babies are older seems safer, since the immune system is more mature.

But the alternative vaccine schedules raise their own problems. Most importantly, children are most susceptible to some infections (like pertussis, pneumonia and HiB) in the first year of life. Delaying vaccination leaves them unprotected when they are most vulnerable. Most alternative schedules involve many more trips to the doctor, so it’s easy to get off track and miss doses of certain shots. Bringing baby in more often isn’t too bad when she’s only 2 or 3 months old; but when she gets to be 15 months or so and has to come in monthly to finish up the vaccine series, it can very tough emotionally for parent and child.

The current vaccine schedule has been studied thoroughly. We know that vaccines are safe and effective when given at the ages and combinations recommended by the CDC schedule. We don’t have that kind of reassurance about the other schedules. For instance, do the 2-month vaccines work as well if I split them and give some at 2 months and some at 3 months of age? We know from experience with certain other vaccines that the immune response to the second shot can be blunted because the body is still responding to the first shot. We really don’t know if that’s the case with the alternative schedule, but the risk is there. We also know that combining certain vaccines increases the risk of febrile seizures. So in theory, it’s possible that deviating from the recommended schedule can compromise both the safety and effectiveness of the immunizations.

For these reasons, we recommend AGAINST using alternative vaccine schedules.

No topic is more important to a parent than the health of their child. Years of research and experience have shown us that vaccinating our children is one of the safest and most effective ways to protect their health. If you have questions about vaccines, please talk to your child's doctor. They are in the best position to help you sort through the information and do what's best for your child.

Laura Archuleta MD

 

(Dr. Laura Archuleta is a family medicine provider at CHI St. Alexius Health Mandan Medical Plaza.)