A common concern among parents, which has been fuelled by anti-vaccination campaigners, is that by vaccinating children against several diseases at once we are putting them at an increased risk of certain illnesses. Sceptics believe that giving too many vaccinations together, giving them too early, or in too short a time span has the potential to “overload” a child’s immune system. These fears have led to an increase in children being unvaccinated and 15% more parents delaying jabs – causing outbreaks of diseases like measles and scarlet fever.
But, a new study has now shown that these fears are simply myths. The study was called for after recent recommendations for research into the safety of common childhood immunisation program across the US. The researchers looked at the impact of vaccinations given to children between birth and two years old. The majority of vaccines are tested separately, so medical professionals understand the concerns of parents and felt that the whole program should be checked, as having so many vaccines together could lead to interactions.
The authors said: “Some parents believe this increase in vaccine exposure is harmful to children, with specific concerns that early childhood immunisation ‘overloads’ the immune system and increases the risk for future infection. Based in part on this concern, an estimated 10 per cent to 15 per cent of parents are choosing delayed or alternative immunisation schedules for their children.”
The results of the study show that there was no increased risk to children who received the vaccinations, and they were no more likely to become ill than those who weren’t. Of the 944 children who took part, 751 reported no infections in the follow up period. 193 of the children had infections that weren’t related to their vaccinations. When looking at the levels antigen exposure in the children, they found very little difference in the prevalence of infections between the those who took part in the immunisation program and those who didn’t.
Sean O’Leary, of the University of Colorado, and Dr Yvonne Maldonado, of Stanford University commented that “The present study provides further reassurance to parents that the US childhood vaccination schedule is safe in terms of not being associated with an increased risk of non–vaccine targeted infections”.