Youngest Children Are At Greatest Risk When Parents Choose Delayed Vaccination Schedules

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Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Encourages Childhood Vaccinations During National Infant Immunization Week

State health officials at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment are using this year's National Infant Immunization Week, April 21-28, to urge parents not to delay getting their children needed vaccinations in keeping with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommended vaccine schedule.

"The recent whooping cough outbreak in Boulder, and other similar outbreaks across the country, underscore the need for parents to get their children vaccinated according to the schedule created by the CDC," said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, director of the Immunization Section at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

While clearly in the minority, some Colorado parents are choosing to vaccinate their children on delayed or "alternative" schedules. One such delayed schedule recommended by author Dr. Bob Sears has been especially popular among parents choosing to put off some of their child's vaccinations. A 2010 study in the respected journal Pediatrics showed that delayed vaccination schedules provide no additional benefit over the CDC recommended schedule.

Dr. Herlihy noted that concerns about vaccinations often come from a sense that babies' bodies can't handle the vaccines. "That is simply not true," she said. "There is no such thing as overwhelming the immune system with shots. Even infant immune systems have an almost limitless ability to respond to new germs. And the number of antigens or germs in childhood vaccines is a drop in the bucket compared to what young children's immune systems are naturally exposed to every day."

Dr. James Todd, medical director for epidemiology at Children's Hospital Colorado, has conducted new research on vaccine use in Colorado. "The 'too many too soon' myth puts the health of our youngest children and their playmates at risk," Dr. Todd said. "Research we have just completed shows we're falling behind in the early childhood vaccine schedule in Colorado. We're falling behind with the youngest children. This is significant because typically we see most vaccine-preventable disease in children up to 36 months of age."

A March whooping cough (pertussis) outbreak in Boulder County sickened at least 37 people. Six of the diagnosed cases were children under age 9, and one infant required intensive-care hospitalization. Whooping cough is a vaccine-preventable illness, and delaying children's pertussis immunizations significantly increases their risk of contracting this disease.

National Infant Immunization Week is an annual observance to highlight the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases and to celebrate the achievements of immunization programs and their partners in promoting healthy communities.

Infants are particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases. That is why it is critical to protect them through immunization. Each day, nearly 12,000 babies are born in the United States, and all of them need to be immunized against 14 vaccine-preventable diseases before age 2.

A 2010 national survey showed that 88 percent of parents follow CDC's recommended vaccine schedule. However, some parents still have concerns about vaccine safety due, in part, to a now completely discredited British study that connected autism to childhood vaccines.
Recognizing some parents may have concerns about vaccine safety, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment partnered with other organizations to create the website, http://www.immunizeforgood.com, to inform parents about which vaccines are needed, and why they're important.

In the United States, vaccines have reduced or eliminated many infectious diseases that once routinely harmed or killed thousands of infants and young children each year. However, the viruses and bacteria that cause vaccine-preventable disease and death still exist and can be passed on to people who are not immunized.

Vaccine-preventable diseases have many social and economic costs. These diseases result in doctor visits, hospitalizations and even death. Sick children miss school and can cause parents to lose time from work.

In addition to the http://www.immunizeforgood.com website, parents are encouraged to access other credible resources regarding immunizations. Both http://www.cdc.gov and http://www.cdphe.state.co.us also provide great vaccination resources.

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Mark Salley
CDPHE
303-692-2013
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