Can We Delay Vaccination for Babies? This is a common question many parents ask, and today we answer it considering all the scenarios possible.
One of the most contended topics in recent times when it comes to parenting, has got to be vaccination. Even in this day and age, we have debates about whether vaccination is required or not, and it can lead to some pretty heated discussions! We spend a lot of time responding to vaccination myths every year. Today, we’re going to deal with an important topic – can we delay vaccination for babies?
The body does have its own immune system, but sometimes they need extra help. This is where vaccines enter the picture, by stimulating the body’s natural immunity in specific ways for each disease. Vaccines are a crucial part of infant care and child care, which is why the Indian Academy of Pediatrics states that immunization programs should be considered ‘essential medical service’ that shouldn’t be interrupted even in the middle of a pandemic. Yet, we have the question: can we delay vaccination for babies?
Can We Delay Vaccination for Babies?
Every country has its own immunization schedule for babies, which has been put together by doctors, epidemiologists and other experts based on the demographics of the particular region. For India, you’ll find the latest immunization schedule put forth by the Indian Academy of Pediatrics here.
You’ll see that the immunization schedule starts quite early – right from birth. This is because newborn infants are the most vulnerable to disease, considering their low immunity. They are also the most likely to get seriously ill or even die due to an infection, which is why early vaccination is a must. This is also why it is important to follow the schedule and not delay or space out the recommended vaccines. If you do this, the baby is left exposed to serious disease-causing pathogens without any protection.
That said, there are some specific instances in which it may make more sense to delay vaccination in babies, and here are the six most common reasons that answer the question: can we delay vaccination for babies?
6 Reasons to Delay Vaccination in Babies
1. Allergic reaction to an earlier vaccine
This is the most common reason to delay vaccination in babies. In general allergic reactions to vaccinations are extremely rare, but if your child did have an allergic reaction to an earlier vaccine, it is grounds to delay the next vaccination. Allergic reactions to vaccinations appear as hives, high fever, breathing difficulties or lowered blood pressure. It is important to note that an allergic reaction is not to be confused with usual side effects for vaccination, like low grade fever or redness at the site of the injection.
2. Pre-existing allergies or asthma
If there is a strong family history of allergy or asthma, there may be cause to delay vaccination in babies, at least for certain vaccines. For instance, some vaccines are made with eggs, which may not be suitable for a child with an egg allergy. Usually, for such children, vaccines are administered in very low doses, gradually increasing it till complete.
Babies with asthma or a family history of asthma or other respiratory conditions may have to avoid or delay taking nasal versions of vaccines, since they often contain live viruses which can trigger a flare-up. Vaccines for such kids may be delayed till the child is at least 2 years old.
3. Steroid medication
Babies who need to take high doses of steroids for any medical conditions may need to avoid live-virus vaccines like those for MMR, rotavirus or zoster. This is because steroids can lower the body’s immune response and can affect the efficacy of the vaccine. The child can get back on the immunization schedule two weeks after stopping the steroid treatment.
We know that many vaccines for babies have side effects that include fever and soreness. Due to this, it is recommended to delay vaccination if the baby is already suffering from a fever, since it will be difficult to say if the ensuing fever is a continuation of the earlier illness or is just the vaccine’s side effect. This generally applies to children suffering from a fever of 101 degrees or higher. You can reschedule the vaccination to a time after your baby recovers.
5. Weakened immune system
Vaccines can also be delayed for babies who suffer from any condition that leaves them immunocompromised. Children with weakened immunity will have to stay away from live-virus vaccines, although dead-virus vaccines are relatively safer. Any child whose T-cell counts are in an abnormal range will have to delay vaccination.
6. Sick family members
Just as immunocompromised children will have to delay vaccination, it also applies to babies who live with family members who have weakened immune systems, either due to a medical condition or because of treatments like chemotherapy or immunosuppressant medicines. This does not apply to all vaccines, but to some, like nasal vaccinations which could secrete viruses into the air.
These should clarify the doubt many parents have: can we delay vaccination for babies? According to the WHO, small delays in the immunization schedule are acceptable, usually if it’s a week or two. This short delay does not expose the baby to risk of disease, but it should still be undertaken only after consultation with the child’s doctor. It is important to remember that these schedules have been prepared with a great deal of care and research, and they have been planned for a reason.
With dedicated attention to vaccination, we have been able to completely get rid of illnesses like small pox and are almost get rid of diseases like polio, measles and diphtheria. However, if we delay or skip vaccinations now, we risk bringing back these illnesses into our society, and making the most vulnerable – our babies – at risk of serious sickness.