Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Infant Immune System Is Stronger Than Many Parents Think

Date:
January 10, 2002
Source:
Childrens Hospital Of Philadelphia
Summary:
From the moment of birth, infants are capable of responding to numerous challenges to the immune system, including multiple vaccines, according to a new report published in the January issue of Pediatrics. The report, authored by Paul A. Offit, M.D., chief of Infectious Diseases and director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and colleagues, reviews current research on the effects of vaccines on the immune system and the capacity of the infant immune system to respond safely to multiple simultaneous immunizations.

From the moment of birth, infants are capable of responding to numerous challenges to the immune system, including multiple vaccines, according to a new report published in the January issue of Pediatrics. The report, authored by Paul A. Offit, M.D., chief of Infectious Diseases and director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and colleagues, reviews current research on the effects of vaccines on the immune system and the capacity of the infant immune system to respond safely to multiple simultaneous immunizations.

“The number of recommended childhood vaccines has increased substantially over the past several decades. Twenty years ago, children received 7 vaccines routinely and up to 5 shots by 2 years of age. Today, children receive 11 vaccines routinely and as many as 20 shots by age two,” explains Dr. Offit. As a possible consequence of these trends, recent national surveys have found that an increasing number of parents are concerned that infants receive too many vaccines. Implicit in this concern is the idea that an infant’s immune system is inadequately developed to handle vaccines safely or that multiple vaccines may weaken, overwhelm or deplete the immune system.

“The infant immune system has an enormous capacity to respond safely and effectively to immune system challenges from vaccines,” says Dr. Offit. “Our report offers reassurance to parents that far from weakening an infant’s immune system, vaccines actually strengthen an infant’s defenses against serious and potentially fatal infections.”

The report, entitled “Addressing Parents’ Concerns: Do Multiple Vaccines Overwhelm or Weaken the Infant Immune System?” highlights the following important findings:

Newborns commonly encounter a host of challenges to their immune system at the same time Newborns are capable of generating protective immune responses to bacteria and viruses, as well as vaccines, from the moment of birth. This capability is necessary for them to meet the tremendous number of environmental challenges they will encounter in the first few hours and days of life.

“Babies emerge from the relatively sterile environment of the womb into a world teeming with bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms, and their immune systems are designed to stand up to these challenges from the start,” explains Dr. Offit. “Newborns have billions of immunologic cells that are capable of responding to millions of different microorganisms. By quickly making an immune response to bacteria that live on the surface of their intestines, for example, babies are able to keep those bacteria from invading their bloodstream and causing serious disease.”

Current research shows that young infants are fully capable of generating protective immune responses to multiple vaccines given simultaneously. “Our analysis shows that infants have the theoretical capacity to respond to about 10,000 vaccines at once. Currently, the most vaccines that children receive at one time is five,” says Dr. Offit. “Using this estimate, we could predict that even if all 11 of the routinely recommended vaccinations were given to infants at one time, only about .01 percent of the immune system would be used.”

Infants today actually receive fewer substances in vaccines that stimulate an immune response than they did 40 or 100 years ago While there has been a substantial increase in the number of routine childhood vaccines over the past several decades, “Parents who are concerned about the growing number of vaccinations recommended for their children may take comfort in knowing that children are actually exposed to fewer antigens -- proteins that stimulate an immune response -- in the vaccines they receive today than in the past,” says Dr. Offit. “Vaccine formulations have been refined and simplified over the years. Although we currently give children more vaccines than in the past, the actual number of antigens they receive has declined significantly. Whereas previously one vaccine, smallpox, contained about 200 antigens, now the 11 routinely recommended childhood vaccines contain fewer than 130 antigens combined.”

Mild to moderate illness does not affect an infant’s ability to generate protective immune responses to vaccines Some parents worry that vaccinating children who have minor illnesses makes it less likely that they will develop a protective immune response and more likely that they will develop an adverse reaction to the vaccine than healthy children. However, says Dr. Offit, data do not support this fear. “Studies have found that the presence of a minor to moderate illness such as an upper respiratory tract infection, ear infection, skin infection, fever or diarrhea does not compromise a child’s ability to respond to vaccines or increase the risk of an adverse vaccine reaction.”

“Because of the success of our immunization program, incidences of many vaccine-preventable diseases in this country are at an all-time low. This in turn has led some parents to question whether vaccines are really still necessary for their child,” says Dr. Offit. “It is important to realize, however, that these vaccine-preventable diseases have not been eliminated. Some, like measles, mumps and rubella, continue to circulate at low levels in our population. Other, like diphtheria and polio, continue to cause outbreaks in other parts of the world and remain only a plane ride away. History tells us that if immunization rates were to drop, even by as little as 10 @ 15 percent, we would soon face a resurgence of these diseases and the devastating effects associated with them.”

“Immunizations are extremely safe and highly effective at preventing disease and death, and are one of the most important steps parents can take to protect their children,” says Dr. Offit. “Our report can offer parents reassurance that by immunizing their infants, they are affording them maximum protection against serious infectious diseases with minimum risk, helping their immune systems to become stronger, and giving them the healthiest possible start in life.”

Co-authors of the report with Dr. Offit are Jessica Quarles, Michael A. Gerber, M.D., Charles J. Hackett, Ph.D., and Sarah Landry from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Edgar K. Marcuse, M.D., and Tobias R. Kollman, M.D., from the University of Washington School of Medicine, and Bruce Gellin, M.D. from Vanderbilt Medical College.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Childrens Hospital Of Philadelphia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Childrens Hospital Of Philadelphia. "Infant Immune System Is Stronger Than Many Parents Think." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 January 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/01/020109073542.htm>.
Childrens Hospital Of Philadelphia. (2002, January 10). Infant Immune System Is Stronger Than Many Parents Think. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/01/020109073542.htm
Childrens Hospital Of Philadelphia. "Infant Immune System Is Stronger Than Many Parents Think." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/01/020109073542.htm (accessed August 1, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Friday, August 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Texas Quintuplets Head Home

Texas Quintuplets Head Home

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 1, 2014) After four months in the hospital, the first quintuplets to be born at Baylor University Medical Center head home. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Patient Coming to U.S. for Treatment

Ebola Patient Coming to U.S. for Treatment

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 1, 2014) A U.S. aid worker infected with Ebola while working in West Africa will be treated in a high security ward at Emory University in Atlanta. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Vaccine Might Be Coming, But Where's It Been?

Ebola Vaccine Might Be Coming, But Where's It Been?

Newsy (Aug. 1, 2014) Health officials are working to fast-track a vaccine — the West-African Ebola outbreak has killed more than 700. But why didn't we already have one? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Study Links Certain Birth Control Pills To Breast Cancer

Study Links Certain Birth Control Pills To Breast Cancer

Newsy (Aug. 1, 2014) Previous studies have made the link between birth control and breast cancer, but the latest makes the link to high-estrogen oral contraceptives. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins