Vaccines are arguably the most studied pharmacological agents in the history of clinical and laboratory medical research. Who, you might ask, is responsible for deciding on the recommended schedule — what some refer to as the “gold standard” — of childhood immunizations? The American Academy of Pediatrics supplies the answer:

Each year, top disease experts and doctors who care for children work together to decide which vaccines to recommend that will best protect U.S. children from diseases. The schedule is evaluated each year based on the most recent scientific data available. Changes are announced in January, if needed. The schedule is approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

 

The 2018 schedule includes the recommendation that children ages 11 and 12 receive the two-dose series of HPV vaccine, with the three-dose series recommended for children ages 15 and older. Also included is guidance on issuing an optional third dose of a mumps-containing vaccine during a mumps outbreak. (There have been several reported in the U.S. in recent years.) Otherwise, the schedule is essentially unchanged from 2017. For parents who may be considering spacing out or delaying vaccines for their infants and children, the AAP is clear it is not a good idea:

First, you would not want your child to go unprotected that long. Of all age groups, young babies are hospitalized and die more often from the diseases we are trying to prevent with vaccines, so it is important to vaccinate them as soon as possible. Second, the recommended schedule is designed to work best with a child’s immune system at certain ages and at specific time intervals between doses. There is no research to show that a child would be equally protected against diseases with a very different schedule. Also, there is no scientific reason why spreading out the shots would be safer. But we do know that any length of time without immunizations is a time without protection against vaccine preventable diseases.

 

The AAP has more answers to questions about pediatric vaccine schedules here. View the complete 2018 vaccine schedule with footnotes here, and parent-friendly versions here.

Don’t forget that adults need their vaccines too! We’ll have more about that tomorrow on The PediaBlog.

 

(CDC/Google Images)