The crowded schedule of vaccines recommended for babies, sometimes requiring five shots in a single doctor's visit, is safe, a new report from the Institute of Medicine has found. The report, researchers say, should comfort parents who worry that the repeat shots could overload babies' fragile immune systems. More from MSNBC.com:
"Our committee found no evidence that the childhood immunization schedule is not safe," Ada Sue Hinshaw, Ph.D, dean of the graduate school of nursing at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and chair of the committee, told reporters in a conference call.
The Institute, one of the independent National Academies of Science, was asked to look at studies involving not the vaccines themselves, which have been shown numerous times to be safe, but at the schedule for their delivery.
Babies are vaccinated against diphtheria and tetanus, whooping cough and measles, chickenpox and bugs that cause meningitis, pneumonia and diarrhea. Some shots have to be given multiple times over a period of months to fully protect a child, and the schedule is based on when a child becomes vulnerable to infections, as well as when their immune system is developed enough to respond the vaccines.
"A number of concerned parents say the schedule is too 'crowded' and have requested flexibility, such as delaying one or more immunizations or having fewer shots per visit," the committee says in its report.
"Some parents have rejected the vaccines outright, arguing that the potential harm of their child suffering a side effect from the vaccine outweighs the well-documented benefits of immunizations preventing serious disease. Other parents delay or decline immunizations due to worries that family history, the child's premature birth, or an underlying medical condition may make them more vulnerable to complications. Some simply distrust the federal government's decisions about the safety and benefits of childhood immunizations."
And delaying or refusing vaccination can cause harm -- not only to the children who are not fully vaccinated, but to those around them, the committee noted. "States with policies that make it easy to exempt children from immunizations were associated with a 90 percent higher incidence of whooping cough in 2011," the report says.
Image: Baby getting vaccine, via Shutterstock