Study Concludes Concern Over “Too Many, Too Soon” is Unfounded
Although over 90% of parents vaccinate their children according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended schedule, some still wonder if the number of vaccines their child receives at such a young age is safe. In fact, nearly 1 in 10 parents have refused or delayed vaccinations because they are unsure of the safety of the schedule, and approximately one-third of parents continue to question whether the combination of numerous vaccines administered in these early months are somehow responsible for triggering autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
While the question of “too many, too soon” is a common parental concern, there is new scientific evidence published today in the Journal of Pediatrics that demonstrates these concerns to be unfounded. This latest study provides additional confirmation that there is no association between receiving “too many vaccines too soon” and autism and further strengthen a comprehensive review by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2004 that concluded there was no causal relationship between certain vaccine types and autism, as well as the recent 2013 IOM Report on Childhood Immunization Schedule and Safety that concluded that the full vaccine schedule was safe.
This new research specifically investigated the concern of antigens – the substances in vaccines that cause the body’s immune system to produce the antibodies that fight diseases. The study examines the impact of the varying amounts of antigens that children may be exposed to during their first two years of life. Since vaccines for various diseases contain different amounts of antigens, and various vaccines that protect against the same infectious agents may contain varying amounts of antigens, the research had to go beyond simply counting the number of vaccines a child received to be valid. Instead, researchers developed a system to adequately account for different vaccine and vaccine combinations by looking at the cumulative exposure each child had to various antigens.
Researchers not only considered the maximum number of antigens each child received in a single day of vaccination, but also the total number of antigens they received by two years of age. They did this by analyzing data from 256 children with ASD and 752 children without ASD, all born between 1994-1999 and who were 6-13 years old at the time of data collection. What they found was that the total antigens from vaccines received by two years of age, as well as the maximum number received on a single day, was the same between children with and without ASD.
In short, Dr. Frank DeStefano, the lead author of this research paper, states,
“Increasing exposure to antibody-stimulating proteins and polysaccharides in vaccines is not associated with risk of autism.”
While it’s understandable that parents are concerned about the safety and number of vaccines which are administered to young children, many parents simply don’t realize that from the moment of their birth, a child is continuously exposed to hundreds of viruses and countless antigens each and every day. However, since parents never actually see these threats, they often can’t imagine that their tiny babies are more than capable of handling a few additional antigens from a vaccine that will actually work to prep their immune system for a possible attack later on. Once parents become familiar with how a vaccine works, and the ingredients that help elicit an appropriate immune response, they begin to understand that vaccines and their antigens are not harmful in the amounts that they are administered to their children.
What’s interesting to note is that this newly published study is based on the vaccine schedule of the 1990s, during which time the complete schedule included a much higher number of vaccine antigens than a typical child is exposed to today. In comparison, a two-year old child in the late 1990s may have received numerous vaccines that, once combined, included several thousand antigens. But thanks in part to several scientific advancements, a child who will be immunized according to the 2013 schedule, will not only receive protection from more vaccines, but will actually receive far fewer antigens. As few as 315. With this evidence, it’s easy to see that the results of this study are more than relevant in evaluating the antigen load of the current recommended schedule.
The research published today should help address parental concerns about the number of vaccines that are included on the recommended schedule. The evidence not only suggests that the small number of antigens that exist in today’s vaccines are safe, but that they are also not associated with any increased risk of ASD. Hopefully this information, in combination with the numerous other studies that have concluded that the schedule is safe, will provide parents with the information they need to continue to immunize their children.