Feds Say Childhood Vaccine Schedule Is Safe and Effective
Despite the proven effectiveness of childhood vaccines for measles, polio and whooping cough, many parents are leery of giving them to their children for fear of causing more problems than the vaccines solve.
The evidence for the use of vaccines has been overwhelming, and now there’s new information to support the wisdom of vaccinating children. According to a widely reported story, including on NPR, scheduling children to be immunized 24 times by the age of 2 is safe and effective. The latest research was conducted by the Institute of Medicine (IOM).
The IOM is is an independent, nonprofit organization that works outside of government to provide unbiased and authoritative advice to decision makers and the public. The agency spent a year reviewing all available scientific data to reach its conclusion.
The IOM committee reviewed several medical conditions, including autoimmune diseases (including diabetes), asthma, hypersensitivity, allergies, seizures, epilepsy, child developmental disorders including autism, and other learning disorders, communications disorders, intellectual disabilities and even rare disorders like Tourette's syndrome, which can cause odd tics and body movements and inappropriate outbursts. None of the conditions the committee examined could be linked to the vaccination schedule.
Parents should be reassured, one of the committee members told NPR. But its report also said that the research about the timing and number of vaccines isn't as complete as it could be. The IOM can’t say for certain, for example, if it’s just as safe and effective if vaccines are spread out over a longer period than the current span.
“Once the schedule has been set, though, no one has studied whether moving the vaccine forward two weeks or backward two weeks or adding two vaccines together or splitting them apart would be better than the current schedule," one committee member told NPR.
The committee recommends additional research to analyze the health outcomes of children who don’t get vaccines as soon as they are recommended either because they get sick and can't get a vaccine on schedule or because their parents are concerned about the safety of getting multiple vaccines simultaneously, and decide to space them out.
“Preliminary research,” according to the NPR story, “does show [that] children who don't get vaccinated on time are hospitalized more often than children who are immunized according to federal guidelines.”
Still, some parents aren’t buying into the science.
The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), a nonprofit whose mission is “the prevention of vaccine injuries and deaths through public education and to defending the informed consent ethic in medicine,” said the IOM committee considered only about 40 studies, which it feels is insufficient to draw the conclusion about safety.
The NVIC says it does not advocate for or against the use of vaccines, and supports the availability of vaccines, and the right of consumers to make “educated, voluntary health care choices.”
According to federal health officials, most parents follow the recommended vaccine schedule, and 9 in 10 children are fully vaccinated by the time they enter kindergarten. Only about 1 in 100 parents refuse all vaccines.
For a thoughtful essay that respects the highly charged feelings on both sides of the vaccine issue, see our post from last year, “A Doctor’s Advice to Parents About Vaccines,” and our newsletter from last year, “Vaccines: The Neglected Shot of Prevention.”
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