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Is There an Alternative Vaccine Schedule?

By Amanda Gardner
WebMD Feature

Laura Dye was all for childhood vaccinations until she had her first child. Then she got cold feet after reading what she now calls “scare mongering” online.

"I was super scared about vaccines," says Dye, who lives in southern Delaware. "It was my new little baby. He was so perfect."

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She wanted to limit vaccines out of concern they might harm her newborn son. Her husband, Jared, wanted their new son fully vaccinated. “He had a great aunt who had polio and said that is never happening to our kid,” Dye says.

It was the vaccine debate in a nutshell, with each parent pushing for what they thought was best for their baby.

They compromised. They would space apart their baby’s shots so he got no more than 2 per checkup. It would take much longer to get him vaccinated than the CDC recommends.

At the time, Dye was on board. But in less than 3 years, she had completely changed her mind. What happened?

Timing Is Everything

Kids get up to 27 vaccines by their second birthday. They can get as many as 5 shots at some visits.

It’s all part of the CDC’s official vaccination schedule, which targets 14 serious diseases including whooping cough, diphtheria, tetanus, mumps, measles, rubella, rotavirus, polio, hepatitis B, and meningitis.

Why so many shots, so close together?

"The reason is that this is when people are most vulnerable” to these dangerous diseases, says Gail Shust, MD, a childhood infectious diseases expert at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. For instance, whooping cough and meningitis can be life-threatening without vaccine protection. In short, it just can’t wait.

Research backs it up, based on clinical trials and decades of experience with patients. The schedule is very specific to keep children as safe as possible until they are fully protected.

“We have the most knowledge and understanding of how the immune system responds in that time frame,” says Kari Simonsen, MD, a specialist in children’s infectious diseases at the University of Nebraska.

According to the Institute of Medicine, the vaccine schedule works, with vaccines preventing many cases of measles and other infectious diseases.

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