One of the main points of vaccine critics, is that by giving a large number of vaccines to children in the first years of their life, we may be giving them too much to handle. By spreading out the vaccines we can give their immune system and body an easier time to cope with all of the chemicals.
There are a few things to go over, and questions that we need to answer in order to approach this question.
How does our immune system work?
Our immune system can grossly be divided into 2, the innate immune system, and the adaptive immune system. Think of it like two lines of defence, the first one is a wall, trying to keep out anything in a very non-specific or general way. The second, our adaptive immune system, is groups of specialised soldiers sent on a very specific mission to get rid of an intruder. However, once those soldiers have been deployed, they start training others just like them, to make sure they can handle the current invasion as well as all future invasions of this kind.
One of the best ways to understand our adaptive immune system is with chicken pox, which is caused by a virus called Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV). If you are in your 20s or older, you probably got the chicken pox at some point in your life, but only once. If it’s so common, why didn’t you get sick again? The answer, is because your body created soldiers that fight VZV, and trained more when you got sick. You probably have been exposed to the virus many times in your life after getting sick, but your body now knows how to deal with it, so when you were exposed to the virus you fought it off successfully instead of being sick again.
How do vaccines work?
It goes without saying that this will be a simplified explanation (as was the immune system explanation), however I will try to remain as accurate as possible anyway. Each vaccine has a specific purpose, a specific disease that it is trying to protect you against. It does this by causing your body to train soldiers, or immune system cells (certain white blood cells), to fight this specific disease. Most kids today don’t get the chicken pox, because there is a vaccine for them. The vaccine lets your body respond as if it already knows the disease, and is ready to fight it, without you ever having to be sick. Chicken pox isn’t an extremely dangerous disease, though there are much more dangerous diseases that we have vaccinations for, which prevent future complications in life, and death in many situations. These immune stimulating particles are called antigens, because they generate an immune (anti) response.
Shouldn’t we be limiting the antigens that we give to young children?
It is no secret that being overprotective of children, and not allowing them to be exposed to as much dirt can be detrimental, in that it doesn’t let their immune systems work and develop properly. It’s important to let kids play, roll around in the dirt, but from what age? Generally kids under 2 months old are discouraged from going on airplanes, because their immune system might not yet be strong enough to handle an enclosed area with so many people.
After that short introduction, lets talk about the question at hand, our ability to limit the amount of antigens that children, especially young ones, are exposed to. And this question has a very simple answer. By roaming outside, around the house, just existing outside of a bubble, a child will be exposed to millions of antigens by the time that they are 2 years old. This is a good thing! It builds their immune system up, and trains those special forces soldiers to fight diseases without any problem. How many antigens are we giving children with our vaccines? Until the age of 2, by the general standards and schedule recommended by the World Health Organization, and this is true in most of the developed world, vaccines contain around 350 antigens. Not 3,500, not 35,000, and not 350,000… 350. That’s amount is like adding a bucket of sand to the beach. Remember, they are being exposed to millions naturally.
However, these antigens are crucial, because they train the soldiers that protect against specific, dangerous diseases like Hepatitis, Polio, and many other viruses that have been known to cause long term complications in children.
Is there any evidence to back this up?
At the beginning of March, in 2018 a study was published in a very reputable medical journal called JAMA, testing to find out if children who had received all of the appropriate vaccines by the age of 2 had weaker immune system. This was measured by the amount of infections that they got, obviously infections that they were not vaccinated against. The results were quite clear, that there was no obvious differences in the strength of the immune system between the group that received their vaccines at the appropriate time, to the group that spread them out. However, the group that spread the vaccines out over time had a higher chance of getting one of the infections that they could have been vaccinated for, while they hadn’t yet completed the vaccination process.
There you have it. The claim that there is some benefits to spreading out the vaccines, and not giving them at the appropriate, recommended time is completely baseless, and if you have evidence to say otherwise please send it my way.
The health and safety of our children should be a priority for every parent, and if you want to learn more about first aid, and taking care of the health of your child feel free to check out this course.