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Childhood Vaccines: Should You Space Them Out?

Childhood vaccines are the simplest and most effective way of protecting children. This early in life, their immune systems are most vulnerable to foreign microbes and viruses. To account for certain diseases, children will usually receive a number of vaccinations. This is where an immunization schedule comes in. Following the current CDC schedule, kids may get as many as five shots per visit. 

With this comes a lot of hesitation from parents about their children getting too many jabs all at once. Some parents ask their doctors if they can follow an alternative vaccine schedule or have the vaccines spread out. They worry that too many vaccines can overwhelm their child’s immune system. 

While these concerns are valid from a parent’s point of view, it’s actually one of the more common vaccine myths. In truth, there’s no scientific research that supports these ideas.

By the time they reach age six, your child will have been exposed and vulnerable to about a dozen different diseases that you can avoid through vaccination. Receiving the necessary vaccines at the right times can be a matter of life and death.

Let’s go over some of the childhood vaccines given from birth to 18 years old, letting the CDC guide us.

two little girls laughing

Childhood Vaccines and When They Should Happen

Hepatitis B

Once a child is born, they receive the first shot of the hepatitis B vaccine within the first 24 hours. This vaccine reduces the risk of getting the disease from family members who may not be aware that they have hepatitis B. 

Inactivated Poliovirus (IPV)

The IPV vaccine provides protection against polio. Your child should receive the first dose once they reach two months old. 

Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR)

Between 12 to 15 months, your child receives their first dose of the MMR vaccine. The MMR vaccine provides combined protection against measles, mumps, and rubella. They complete this two-shot series around four to six years of age.

Varicella

Another vaccine your child should receive at 12 to 15 months old is varicella. This is the vaccine that protects them from chickenpox. Varicella is a two-dose vaccine.

Influenza

Children can start receiving their annual flu vaccine at six months of age. This reduces their chances of catching the flu — the contagious viral infection of the nose, throat, and lungs — as well as the severity of symptoms if they still get the flu after immunization. In other words, if they get the flu shot and still get sick, they shouldn’t be sick as long, and their symptoms shouldn’t be as drastic.

little girl with flu

Why So Many Shots, All at Once? 

When they leave the birth canal, babies are exposed to thousands of bacteria and other microbes. The reason that the vaccine schedule is so important is that we want to strengthen their defenses as soon as possible. The schedule is based on clinical trials and years of research by medical experts. The vaccines added to the schedule correspond to the age when a child is likely to be most vulnerable to that disease. 

These vaccines have also been tried and tested to work with each other. In other words, we know that in certain combinations, these vaccines are perfectly safe to receive simultaneously.

For parents that still approach the subject of vaccination schedules with worry, wondering if too many doses all at once will overwhelm their child’s immune system, I encourage you to follow the science behind it. Hundreds of studies and decades of trials conducted by numerous public health professionals and scientists have ensured that the immunization schedule is safe and effective.

Will Something Happen if I Don’t Follow the Recommended Vaccination Schedule? 

It’s understandable why you might be tempted to deviate from the schedule. However, this can open your child up to risk.

Spreading out vaccines might leave more of a window for your child to be exposed to life-threatening diseases and severe health complications. Leaving children unvaccinated for long periods of time can cause harm not only to the child in question but to everyone around them.

Yes, remember that while getting vaccinated is — to an extent — a personal choice, it’s one that affects all the people you come into contact with.

Are There Exceptions to the Vaccination Schedule? 

If a parent still has doubts about getting their child vaccinated following the accepted schedule, they should consult with the child’s doctor. If your child is experiencing mild illness such as cold, cough, or fever, your doctor can still give the green light to receive any necessary vaccines on time. 

In some instances, vaccines can be delayed — which usually happens when a child is moderately or severely ill. They can also not be given it all. The latter is rare, but it might occur when a child is immunocompromised due to a chronic condition. Or your doctor might skip it if they have a life-threatening allergy and had an allergic reaction after a previous vaccine dose.

The Bottom Line 

Vaccine hesitancy and misconceptions have been a huge problem all around the globe. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted this further. However, vaccines are the safest and most effective tool we have for fighting disease and protecting the public at large. Under normal circumstances, following the vaccination schedule saves children’s lives by ensuring they’re protected at the right age.

Immunization schedules and recommendations about when to have your child vaccinated vary by country and change from time to time. You can find an overview of childhood vaccines and recommended ages through your doctor, local health center, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Did you enjoy this blog? You might like learning about how vaccines work.

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Author: Jonathan Baktari MD

CEO of e7health and US Drug Test Centers

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Jonathan Baktari MD

Jonathan Baktari, MD brings over 20 years of clinical, administrative and entrepreneurial experience to lead the current e7 Health team. He has been a triple board-certified physician with specialties in internal medicine, pulmonary and critical care medicine. He has been the Medical Director of The Valley Health Systems, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Culinary Health Fund and currently is the CEO of two healthcare companies.
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