Report: Childhood vaccine schedule is safe

January 16, 2013 1:37:44 PM PST
A report from the Institute of Medicine released Wednesday shows the current vaccine schedule recommended by the government is safe. There is no evidence to show it's not safe.

This is important because while 90-percent of kids in the United States get all the recommended vaccines by the time they start kindergarten, there remains concerns about the vaccination schedule.

I have heard from many parents who feel their kids get too many shots when they are still very young. They worry about the amount of chemicals given all at once and if the combination of vaccines can cause harm. Because of this, some parents "space out" their child's shots. There is even a book written by pediatrician Dr. Robert Sears about this topic called "The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for your Child."

It's true that children can receive as many as 24 vaccinations before the age of two. Some kids will get five shots in one day. And while many studies look at individual vaccines, today's report is the first to look at the overall schedule of childhood vaccines. (The Department of Health and Human Services asked for this report to be completed.)

The good news is the report found no evidence of any safety concerns associated with the recommended vaccine schedule for kids. It found no danger to the timing and no evidence that it is linked to seizures, asthma, developmental disorders or other problems. So this should help alleviate parents' fears.

Dr. Elaine Schulte of the Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital says, "The most important thing for people to know about the report is that the committee concluded that the vaccine schedule is safe. Vaccines are safe and appropriate to give to children. No vaccine is 100-percent effective and no one can ever say vaccines are 100-percent safe but the committee concluded that by and large that vaccines are safe and the schedule is appropriate."

But the committee of experts also found room for improvement. They say research needs to continue so if there is a problem, it will be picked up. This is especially important because we could continue to see more vaccines. And Dr. Pauline Thomas of the New Jersey Medical School says further research is needed to study if there any kids who may be more susceptible to have problems with vaccines.

She also says the report found no evidence that an alternative vaccine schedule that is still within CDC guidelines is better or worse. But "Delaying immunizations is associated with an increased risk for vaccine preventable disease, and that is established in the research."

We know vaccines help prevent diseases such as tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, mumps and measles. Before we had a vaccine against polio, thousands of kids and adults were infected and became paralyzed. Recently we've seen more outbreaks of whooping cough across the nation and right here in the Delaware and Lehigh Valleys. Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a highly contagious bacterial infection. It can lead to pneumonia, seizures, brain damage and even death. The more kids vaccinated, the lower the risk for these outbreaks hence more deaths prevented.

This report should help bolster support for vaccines. It should also help doctors answer questions about the timing of shots. You can read the full report at the website for the Institute of Medicine.