Following the recommended immunization schedule protects infants and children by providing immunity early in life, before they are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sets the U.S. childhood immunization schedule based on recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)—a group of medical and public health experts. This schedule also is approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Infants and young children who do not follow the recommended immunization schedules and instead spread out shots—or leave out shots—are at risk of developing diseases during the time that the shots are delayed. This results in more frequent visits to the doctor’s office, more stress and anticipation of shots and increased costs for you.
There is no evidence that delaying or spreading out vaccines is any safer than simply following the recommended schedule set by the CDC. There is plenty of evidence that the recommended immunization schedule is safe and effective, as the timing of vaccines given has been carefully tested, studied and reviewed prior to being recommended for children.
If your child falls behind the recommended schedule, you can talk to your child’s doctor about catching them up, reducing the amount of time the child is left exposed to vaccine-preventable diseases.
Some vaccine-preventable diseases, such as pertussis (whooping cough) and chickenpox, remain common in the United States, and children may be exposed to these diseases during the time they are not protected by vaccines. In addition, the only way to keep some children safe is by ensuring that others around them are vaccinated. For example, some children with weakened immune systems—such as children undergoing chemotherapy—cannot safely receive certain vaccines. Other vaccines are safe for these children, but do not work well because their immune systems do not respond normally.
Parents who are concerned about the number of shots given at one time can reduce the number given at a visit by using the flexibility built into the current recommended immunization schedule. For example, the third dose of Hepatitis B vaccine can be given at 6 through 18 months of age. Parents can work with their child’s health care professional to have their child receive this dose at any time during this recommended age range.