Is there a benefit to delaying vaccinations?

According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia , diseases still pose a threat to our communities, even more so if we refuse to vaccinate our children and ourselves: “Every dose of a vaccine is important because they all protect against infectious diseases that are threats today and can be especially serious for infants and very young children.”

Michael J. Smith, a pediatric infectious-disease specialist at the University of Louisville School of Medicine in Kentucky, studied data collected as part of the U.S. Safety Datalink monitoring project. His results -- collected several years after children received their vaccinations -- found little difference on intelligence, speech and behavior tests between children who were vaccinated on schedule and those who waited.

Dr. Smith’s analysis found the on-time group -- the group that followed doctor-recommended vaccination schedules -- did slightly better on an intelligence test and answered a little faster on a test asking children to name things. And in no category did the on-time group do worse than the delay group.

Why some parents worry about vaccinations

According to the CDC, the belief that vaccinations cause autism was perceived because childhood vaccines are administered when symptoms of autism appear. Likewise, they see the link as a false alarm.

In its “Infant Immunizations FAQ” the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said “there is no link between them [vaccines] and autism.”

Thimerosal, an organic compound, and the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine have been at the center of this misunderstanding.

According to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), since the 1930s, thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative, has been added to vaccines to prevent bacteria and fungi contamination. The FDA adds that doing so saved many children’s lives because thimerosal provided uncontaminated vaccines.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said: “It is important to understand that mercury is a natural part of our environment and is found in the fish we eat, the water we drink, and in infant formula and breast milk, among other items. There is no evidence that thimerosal in vaccines is harmful.”

Parents have the option to ask their doctors for thimerosal-free vaccines. However, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) “does not recommend using the thimerosal-free flu vaccine over thimerosal-containing flu vaccine, and states that the benefits of flu vaccination outweigh any risk from thimerosal exposure.”

The MMR vaccine has also been thought to be linked to autism. The AAP disagrees with this assessment.

In 1998, a small study was published that linked the MMR vaccine to inflammatory bowel disease and autism. Later these results were rejected because the study was seriously flawed, according to the APP.

The APP says: “As a result of the study and its misleading results, many British parents refused to let their children get the vaccine and the number of measles and mumps outbreaks increased in areas where many children are not vaccinated. Subsequent studies and a 2004 Institute of Medicine report have all concluded that there is no association between the MMR vaccine and autism.”

Vaccinations are important

Boston Children’s Hospital said “in order to keep these diseases at bay, it’s important your child receives the recommended vaccinations -- for health of your family and the general public.”

If you have any concerns about your child’s health or his or her vaccine recommendations, please seek the advice of a medical professional.