A new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) should reassure parents that the recommended childhood immunization schedule is safe and provides the best protection for children from infectious diseases, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
“The panel looked at all the scientific evidence on the entire childhood immunization schedule, and concluded it is safe,” said Thomas K. McInerny, MD, FAAP, president of the AAP. “Parents should know that immunizing their children on time significantly reduces their risk of potentially dangerous infectious diseases, including measles, whooping cough and influenza.”
Under the current childhood immunization schedule, children may receive as many as 24 immunizations by their second birthday, and may receive up to five injections during a single doctor’s visit, says the report. Technological advances have reduced the number of antigens (inactivated or dead viruses and bacteria, or altered bacterial toxins) in vaccines, and new vaccines undergo rigorous testing prior to approval, but like all medicines vaccines carry some risk. Concerns from parents about vaccine side effects and the number of vaccines recommended for children prompted the Department of Health and Human Services to ask the IOM to conduct a comprehensive review of the evidence.
The IOM found no evidence the U.S. childhood immunization schedule is linked to autoimmune diseases, asthma, hypersensitivity, seizures, child developmental disorders, learning or developmental disorders, or attention deficit or disruptive disorders. In its summary, the committee wrote, “rather than exposing children to harm, following the complete childhood immunization schedule is strongly associated with reducing vaccine-preventable diseases.”
The committee also called for continued study of the immunization schedule using data systems like the Vaccine Safety Datalink, a collaborative effort between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and nine managed care organizations that monitors vaccine side effects.
“This report is unique in that it is the first attempt to examine the entire childhood immunization schedule as it exists today. The IOM committee found no evidence of major safety concerns when following the schedule, and in fact confirmed that following the schedule strongly reduces the risk of disease. We hope this report will help pediatricians in their conversations with parents about vaccines,” Dr. McInerny said. “Pediatricians and parents have the same goal of giving children the best start in life, and vaccines play an essential role in protecting children from harm.”