Where some see a crisis, others see an opportunity.
Recently, the government announced it soon might face shortages of many common childhood vaccines. The federal stockpile, supposed to contain 41 million doses, now holds only about 13 million doses.
Some launched into crisis mode. ?I?d start the meeting at 1 o?clock, lock the door, and wouldn?t let anyone leave until they had found a solution,? Dr. Jerome Klein, a member of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee, told The Washington Post. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., intoned, ?Research shows that a vaccine delayed is a vaccine denied, and when kids are young we should never take that gamble.?
But this also can be an opportunity to discuss whether we need to be giving children all the shots they?re getting. After all, the greatest gamble may not be in skipping some shots, but in giving children shot after shot at a remarkably young age.
During a child?s first 18 months, the government recommends he receive up to 20 doses of vaccine to protect against 11 diseases. The amount of dangerous material we?re pumping into our children?s bodies, at an age when they?re especially vulnerable, is frightening.
?In humans, the most rapid period of brain development begins in the third trimester and continues over the first two years of extra uterine life. By then brain development is 80 percent complete,? notes Dr. Donald Miller, a professor of surgery at the University of Washington. He recommends delaying childhood vaccinations.
Under his schedule, children wouldn?t get any shots until age two (except the hepatitis B vaccine if their mothers tested positive). Even then, instead of the combined shots children get, Dr. Miller recommends shots be given one at a time, with at least six months between shots. That will ?allow the immune system sufficient time to recover and stabilize between shots,? he writes.
This schedule seems reasonable. Vaccinations are traumatic, and every parent worries about the effects of all those shots. Fifty years ago, children were vaccinated only against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and smallpox. These days, we inoculate against nearly a dozen diseases, even relatively harmless ones such as chicken pox.
One reason there are so many shots is because the government is gung-ho about immunizations. Sen. Schumer recently declared, ?For every day the government stands idle on this issue, we risk losing not inches or feet, but miles of the ground we have gained in recent years.?