By Jinny Suh
Among the many anti-vaccine myths dutifully presented by fervent immunization opponents is the argument “Too Many, Too Soon.” It is often raised after all the other straw men about mercury, aluminum, autism, etc. have been knocked down. It is what I like to call the “But still” argument.
It falls in that category because it’s usually presented in the following way: “Okay, vaccines may work and may be safe for the vast majority of people, and may be effective in eradicating disease, but still my instinct tells me that Big Pharma/Big Government/Corrupt CDC/Uneducated Pediatricians are giving little babies too many vaccines all at once, and too soon for their little baby immune systems to handle.” There are variations on this theme, including “One Size Does Not Fit All” and “They Didn’t Give That Many Back In My Day." It can be an effective argument when presented to someone who is unclear or misinformed about the way vaccines and our immune systems work.
Dr. Paul Offit does a nice job summarizing why vaccines don’t overwhelm an infant’s immune system, but in case you want the TL;DR version, here it is. Babies are meant to develop their own immunity from birth as their systems come into contact with more than a million bacteria proteins during and shortly after birth. While mom passes on some immunity, it is often short-lived and very limited compared with the baby’s own generated immunity.
And there’s more! The amount of antigen that is included in the vaccines given in the first few years of life represents a fraction of what a baby’s immune system is capable of handling. While some parents fret about the increase in number of shots that children receive since vaccines were first invented, the amount of antigens in those shots is less than it was in those early days. Two reasons why - we’ve eradicated the need for protection from smallpox (can I get another shout out for science?) and scientists have learned so much that they can design better vaccines that provide the same protection with less antigen. I can’t say it enough. Science is amazing.
In light of the overwhelming evidence that the current vaccination schedule is safe and effective, I am a cheerleader for early childhood vaccination. I want my children to be protected from disease, especially when those diseases can bring misery, complications, and even death. And it troubles me to see stories of chicken pox parties or comparisons of measles to the common cold. To the parents pushing these ideas instead of getting their kids vaccinated: Science is not on your side and you’re increasing the opportunities for vaccine-preventable diseases to come back to life from some terrible periods in our history. With the current measles outbreak in Minnesota, that’s already happening.
From one parent to another, please stop it.
Jinny Suh lives in Austin and is a mom of two boys, the leader of Immunize Texas, a Hello Kitty enthusiast, and a strong supporter of evidence-based science and medicine.
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