Dear Madame L,
There are lots of people where I live who are refusing to have their children vaccinated against many common childhood diseases because of news items they've read.
Some people I know won't even associate with those people any more and won't let their children go to nursery or pre-school classes with those children, and so on.
Although this seems extreme to me, I'm wondering why they're giving so many vaccines so early. When I was a kid, we didn't get three shots on our first well-baby checkup, for instance.
Do you know anything about this?
Want to Do the Right Thing, But I Don't Know What it Is
Dear Doing the Right Thing,
Thank you for asking about this issue. While Madame L is by no means an expert, she trusts established immunologic doctors and researchers more than she does movie stars, gossip magazines, web-sites, and the infamous doctor who has now lost his license, the one who started the whole vaccine scare with false "research" that claimed to connect vaccines with autism.
Like those people you mention, Madame L would also refuse to spend time in a closed room, or let her children or grandchildren do the same, with children or adults who are not vaccinated against mumps, rubella, German measles, polio, and the other common diseases for which vaccines are available.
As for the giving of more vaccines, earlier, it has been established through reliable research that children who are vaccinated earlier are less vulnerable to those diseases.
Madame L puts anti-vaccine mania in the same category with playing the lottery or believing you'll ever get a check from some big company.
Madame L has to wonder about people who say things like, "Well, they didn't do it this way back when I was a boy," or, "Well, I never got a polio vaccination back in the 50's or 60's, and I never got polio," or even, as an elderly acquaintance of hers once said, "I never wear a seat belt, and I never got hurt."
(The driver of that car, Madame L's father, said, "Well, you will not get hurt today, either, because you will not be riding in this car, because I will not start the engine until everyone in the car is wearing a seat belt." The elderly friend finally gave in and wore a seat belt. She also put away her knitting needles, under protest, after saying she always knitted while in the car; but only after Madame L's father informed her he would also not start the car until her knitting was put away securely.)
Likewise, Madame L wonders about a friend of hers who recently said, "Nah, I'm not getting a flu shot this year. My wife got a flu shot last year, and she got sick anyway, so obviously they're worthless."
Madame L in fact just can't believe the irrationality behind those kinds of statements.
Rather than continue to rant about this issue, though, Madame L will just, for now, refer you to a recent study showing that the current vaccine schedule is SAFE for children. Not only that, it HELPS them stay healthy while they get through a time of their lives when they are unprotected by the antibodies from their mother's body and milk.
Excerpts from US News Today's reporting on the news:
"Up to 40% of parents now skip or space out some of their children's shots, following alternative schedules due to concerns over safety and side effects, studies show. ...
"But the CDC vaccine schedule 'is not arbitrary,' says vaccine researcher Peter Hotez, father of an autistic child.
"Paul Offit, who developed a vaccine against rotavirus, says the Food and Drug Administration requires manufacturers to test new vaccines in combination with previously approved shots, to make sure they are safe and effective.../
"The CDC schedules the timing and doses of childhood shots through careful scientific testing, to optimize children's immune response and protect them during the years when they are most vulnerable, says Hotez, who wasn't involved in the new report.
"'The concept that you are going to overload a child's immune system by giving too many vaccines at once makes no sense,' says Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine....
'"It makes no sense to alter the schedule, and in fact it is even dangerous,' Hotez says. 'When you play with vaccine schedules, you are playing with fire.'"
Here's a quick summary of the aims of the study and the results:
"Roughly 90 percent of American children receive most childhood vaccines advised by the federal immunization schedule by the time they enter kindergarten, noted the committee that wrote the report. However, some parents choose to spread out their children's immunizations over a different time frame than recommended by the schedule and a small fraction object to having their children immunized at all. Their concerns arise in part from the number of doses that children receive; the schedule entails 24 immunizations by age 2 given in amounts ranging from one to five injections during a pediatric visit. Some critics of immunization policies have called for studies comparing health outcomes among vaccinated and unvaccinated children and for research to determine if subgroups exist that are predisposed to experiencing harmful health effects from the vaccines."
The result of the study: "A review of the available evidence underscores the safety of the federal childhood immunization schedule."
Here's the abstract of the published study results:
"Vaccines are among the most safe and effective public health interventions to prevent serious disease and death. Because of the success of vaccines, most Americans today have no firsthand experience with such devastating illnesses as polio or diphtheria. Health care providers who vaccinate young children follow a schedule prepared by the U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Under the current schedule, children younger than six may receive as many as 24 immunizations by their second birthday. New vaccines undergo rigorous testing prior to receiving FDA approval; however, like all medicines and medical interventions, vaccines carry some risk.
"Driven largely by concerns about potential side effects, there has been a shift in some parents’ attitudes toward the child immunization schedule. HHS asked the IOM to identify research approaches, methodologies, and study designs that could address questions about the safety of the current schedule.
"This report is the most comprehensive examination of the immunization schedule to date. The IOM committee uncovered no evidence of major safety concerns associated with adherence to the childhood immunization schedule. [Emphasis added] Should signals arise that there may be need for investigation, however, the report offers a framework for conducting safety research using existing or new data collection systems."
If any of Madame L's Dear Readers would like to read the entire study, Madame L will try to obtain it for you. Just let Madame L know if you're interested.
Meanwhile, Madame L hopes ALL of her Dear Readers will check all the possible reliable and rational sources for whatever they decide, on any issue, and not rely on rumors or word-of-mouth or talk radio blathering as sources of information.