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The Informed Parent

The Vaccine Schedule: Why So Many Vaccines And Why So Early?

by Lori A. Livingston, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Feb. 16, 2009

Vaccination rates are at a record high level, and rates of almost every vaccine-preventable disease continue to drop. However, many parents are hesitant to accept some or all vaccines, and wonder why they shouldn’t be spread out over more time. Here are some answers to many of the most common questions heard by pediatricians.

Who Makes The Vaccine Schedule?

Many experts are involved in the development of the schedule. Infectious disease specialists, public health officials, nurses, pharmacists and scientists come together each year to review the safety and efficacy of the schedule. They represent the Center for Disease Control, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Practice, the National Institute of Health, the Federal Drug Administration and the Canadian Pediatric Society. The vaccine schedule has evolved over the past 50 years based on scientific evidence.

Why Is The Schedule One Size Fits All?

On the contrary, decisions regarding vaccines are NOT one size fits all. Exceptions are made when there is a reason to delay or omit a vaccine. There are contraindications and precautions to take into account at the time each dose is scheduled to be given. For example: the flu vaccine should not be given to children with severe egg allergies due to concern for anaphylaxis. There are special circumstances such as immunocompromised children or those with chronic diseases that often require different strategies.

Why Are There So Many Vaccines?

This is the good news! We can now prevent 16 serious illnesses. Most parents and even new pediatricians have only read about, but never seen, the devastating consequences of some diseases, such as polio, because of vaccines. But these diseases still exist around the world. Some are common, and vaccines are one of the most important ways parents can keep their children healthy.

Why Do Some Vaccines Require Multiple Doses?

A single dose of some vaccines does not provide complete immunity or protection from the disease. By giving a booster dose, longer term and more complete protection is maintained.

Why Start So Early?

Vaccines are given starting at birth to ensure our youngest and often most fragile children are protected as soon as possible-- when they are most vulnerable to serious diseases. For example, most deaths due to pertussis occur in infants younger than 6 months of age. And the peak of meningitis due to H.Flu type b is about 9 months of age. To protect infants, they need to fully vaccinated against these diseases early, before they are most at risk. The timing of each vaccine is considered in this way to best protect our children.

Why Not Spread Out The Schedule?

Spreading out the vaccines would leave children unprotected at their most vulnerable age. There is no advantage to spreading out the schedule. There is no reason to believe spreading out the vaccines would decrease adverse reactions. Research has shown this to be true. Parents who wish to delay vaccines are putting their children at risk. Although the incidence of vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States is very low, this is because most USA children are fully vaccinated. If enough children are not immunized, we WILL see outbreaks of these diseases. We have already seen this happening across the United States. There have been recent outbreaks of measles and H.Flu meningitis due to unvaccinated children spreading illness.

Following the vaccine schedule as closely as possible is the BEST way to protect your family from serious diseases. Children are our future, and it’s our job to protect them. Your children’s safety and health are your pediatrician’s number one priority. If you have more questions, please call your doctor today.

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