Presidential candidate Donald Trump is a known believer in the vaccine-autism link, but his comments during this previous week’s GOP debate has put focus on a different part of the vaccine question.
“I am totally in favor of vaccines, but I want smaller doses over a longer period of time,” he said. The two doctors sharing the stage with Trump, pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson and ophthalmologist Senator Rand Paul, echoed the point on being able to space out vaccinations. Dr. Carson based his reasoning on safety concerns and Dr. Paul on freedom.
The number of diseases children are vaccinated against has risen from eight to 12 over the past decade, so it can seem reasonable to space them out more in order to lessen the impact—if any—on a child’s body. However, refinement of vaccines and improvements in design have meant that the overall amount of antigens (the substance that triggers the body’s response) in vaccines is actually lower than it was previously.
Additionally, there is no known evidence that delaying vaccines reduces risks. In some cases, the opposite is true. A 2013 study noted that delays in administering the measles vaccine almost doubled the chance of a baby experiencing a scary-but-harmless febrile seizure—a rare side effect of the vaccine that, when administered on schedule, only affects around one in every 2,000–4,000 cases. Delays in vaccination can also create gaps where children are vulnerable to disease they would have been protected against normally. This has been linked to several outbreaks of measles and whooping cough.
In a survey published earlier this year, 93% of pediatric physicians surveyed reported that parents asked for their child’s vaccines to be spread out. How the physicians handled the requests varied, but 87% reported feeling that it would put the child at risk.
Sources for Today’s Article:
“An Alternative Vaccination Schedule Actually Presents More Risks Than Benefits,” NPR web site, September 17, 2015; http://www.npr.org/2015/09/17/441222497/an-alternative-vaccination-schedule-actually-presents-more-risks-than-benefits.
Heid, M., “Spacing Out Kids’ Vaccines Can Hurt Their Health, Experts Say,” Time web site, July 16, 2014; http://time.com/2992222/spacing-out-kids-vaccines-can-hurt-their-health/.
Kempe, A., et al., “Physician Response to Parental Requests to Spread Out the Recommended Vaccine Schedule,” Pediatrics 2015; 135(4): 666–77, doi:10.1542/peds.2014-347.