If a parent follows the suggested vaccination schedule1, it might seem to the parent that the child is getting am inordinately large number of shots. Many anti-vaccination advocates prey on the fact that most parents are not informed enough to know what is “too much” when it comes to medicine, and they say that this large number of vaccines “overwhelms” the baby’s immune system. Of course, as is the case with most assertions in the anti-vaccination camp, this assertion does not stand up to the data.
Probably the most direct study on this comes from Paul A. Offit and others2. The data analyzed by these authors indicate the following:
- Newborns are capable of mounting an immune response at birth. This goes counter to what some anti-vaccination advocates claim, but is nevertheless supported by the data. Of course, any Christian should immediately realize that this is the case. God would certainly design an immune system that was able to respond the moment a baby left the protection of his or her mother’s womb. Anything less would simply be shoddy workmanship!
- Mild illness at the time of vaccination does not affect the level of antibodies produced by vaccination. Many who are fooled by the anti-vaccination advocates don’t even realize that we can chemically measure a body’s immune response to a vaccine (or to an infection) by actually measuring the level of antibodies produced in the blood. These antibodies are so well- characterized that we can actually determine which antibody fights which disease. Even though a child might be mildly sick (and thus his or her immune system is fighting off an infection), the child’s immune system makes the same level of antibodies in response to a vaccine as it would if the child were not at all sick. This indicates that God’s wonderfully designed immune system is not easily “overwhelmed!”
- When comparing children who are given just one vaccine to children who are given several, there is no difference between the level of antibodies produced. In other words, multiple vaccines do not “fight” each other for attention from the immune system. Whether a child gets one vaccination or several, the level of immune response is the same for each disease. If multiple vaccines “overwhelmed” a child’s immune system, you would see the immune response for each disease decrease as the number of vaccinations increase. This is simply not the case.
Another important study comes from Otto and others3. This study investigated 496 vaccinated and unvaccinated children, comparing the health of the vaccinated children to that of the unvaccinated children. It found that children who received immunizations against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, Hib, and polio within the first 3 months of life had fewer infections than those who did not. Surprisingly enough, even the rates of infections unrelated to the vaccines were lower in the vaccinated group than in the unvaccinated group. Now, if vaccines really did “overwhelm” these babies’ immune systems, we would see the vaccinated group have a higher rate of infections as compared to the unvaccinated group. Instead, we see precisely the opposite, indicating that vaccines do not overwhelm an infant’s immune system.
For more information on the safety of vaccines, see our article entitled Vaccines are Very Safe.
1. Recommended Childhood and Adolescent Immunization Schedule
2. Paul A. Offit, et al. “Addressing Parents’ Concerns: Do Multiple Vaccines Overwhelm or Weaken the Infant’s Immune System?” Pediatrics Vol. 109 No. 1 2002; pp. 124-129
3. Otto S, et al. “General non-specific morbidity is reduced after vaccination within the third month of life-the Greifswald study.” J Infect. 2000; 41:172-175
Dr. Wile is not a medical doctor. He is a nuclear chemist. As a result, he does not dispense medical advice. He simply educates the public about scientific issues. Please consult a board-certified medical doctor before making any medical decisions for yourself or your family.