Does it make sense to delay children’s vaccines?

Many pediatricians will tell you a more gradual approach to vaccinations is better than no vaccinations at all

Published March 24, 2019 8:29AM (EDT)

This article originally appeared on Kaiser Health News.

When Elyse Imamura’s son was an infant, she and her husband, Robert, chose to spread out his vaccinations at a more gradual pace than the official schedule recommended.

“I was thinking, ‘OK, we’re going to do this,’” says Imamura, 39, of Torrance, Calif. “‘But we’re going to do it slower so your body gets acclimated and doesn’t face six different things all of a sudden.’”

Seven years later, Imamura says her son, Amaru, is a “very healthy,” active boy who loves to play sports.

But delaying vaccines is risky. Many pediatricians will tell you a more gradual approach to vaccinations is better than no vaccinations at all, but they offer some hard advice to parents who are considering it.

“Every day you are eligible to get a vaccine that you don’t get one, the chance of an invasive disease remains,” says Dr. Charles Golden, executive medical director of the Primary Care Network at Children’s Hospital of Orange County.

Recent outbreaks of measles, mumps and whooping cough have once again reignited a war of words over vaccinations.

The squabble is often painted as two-sided: in one camp, the medical establishment, backed by science, strongly promoting the vaccination of children against 14 childhood diseases by age 2. In the other, a small but vocal minority — the so-called anti-vaxxers — shunning the shots, believing the risks of vaccines outweigh the dangers of the diseases.

The notion that there are two opposing sides obscures a large middle ground occupied by up to one-quarter of parents, who believe in vaccinating their children but, like the Imamuras, choose to do so more gradually. They worry about the health impact of so many shots in so short a period, and in some cases they forgo certain vaccines entirely.

Alternative vaccine schedules have been around for years, promoted by a few doctors and touted by celebrities such as Jenny McCarthy. Donald Trump endorsed the idea during a 2015 Republican presidential debate.

By Bernard J. Wolfson

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