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Panel to Assess Children’s Vaccination Schedules

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Institute of Medicine, an independent organization regularly tasked with making health-based recommendations to doctors and the public, announced in a press teleconference Wednesday that it will be assessing the feasibility of new research on the children’s vaccine schedule currently recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
 
Specifically, the IOM hopes to answer questions over the benefits and risks of alternative vaccine schedules -- those that delay or space out immunizations. This report will represent the first time that experts will be focusing not on individual vaccines, but rather on the childhood vaccine schedule as a whole.
 
While most children are currently vaccinated according to the CDC recommendations, many families choose alternative schedules out of the concern that receiving many vaccines at once may pose a risk to their children -- a fear that is not currently supported by science, but which the IOM also acknowledged has not yet been extensively researched.
 
IOM committee chair Ada Sue Henshaw said during the teleconference that her team had already looked into many of these concerns by holding open information gathering sessions and hearing presentations from health experts and advocacy groups alike.
 
“We have gathered information on public perspectives on the issue and have reviewed the scientific literature on safety [of various vaccine schedules],” she said.
 
What the committee found through the literature reinforced the idea that the current vaccination schedule is safe.
 
“We conducted an extensive literature review on health outcomes and safety of entire recommended vaccination schedule,” said committee member Dr. Alfred Berg during the teleconference. “After our review, our committee found no evidence that the childhood immunization schedule is not safe, and the research continually points to the health benefits of the recommended schedule.”
 
But Henshaw said the information they gathered from the public showed concerns persist.
 
"A major stakeholder concern was the concern of possible immune overload," she said, referring to the fact that, "children may receive up to 24 immunizations by age 2 years and up to 5 injections in a single visit," as outlined in the preliminary IOM report.
 
The committee has also found that there is no data to suggest certain “adjusted” vaccine schedules – as long as they still fall within the CDC guidelines – are any safer or riskier than getting all recommended vaccines in the least number of doctor visits as possible.
 
“You can have an alternative schedule that is still within the CDC guidelines; there is no evidence that it is better or worse, said Dr. Pauline Thomas, another of the committee’s experts, during the teleconference. But, she added, "Delaying immunizations is assoc with an increased risk of vaccine preventable disease, and that is established in the research."
 
Berg added that a major goal of the effort will be to improve communication between doctors and parents over children's vaccines schedules.
 
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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