cdc-vaccine-schedule

Multiple vaccinations weakens the immune system – a myth

If you explore the dark and myth filled back alleys of the antivaccination movement, you will find a wide variety of myths that try to convince people that vaccinating children is dangerous. I’ve covered and refuted many of the myths, although the vaccine deniers tend to rely on zombie myths that keep returning over and over again, never quite dying.

These myths range from outrageous, such as it’s a conspiracy of the government to control population (which I find odd, since the government is barely competent enough to build a post office), to scientific sounding, but ultimately pseudoscientific claims. There are a lot of great websites that debunk many of the myths, and they’re easy to find.

One of the most annoying legends of the antivaccination cult is that multiple vaccinations weakens the immune system of the poor baby’s tender physiology. About that immune system? It’s comparatively strong relative to almost every other organ system in the body.

Myth

educate before you vaccinate

One of the big proponents of the alternative vaccination is schedule is Dr. Bob Sears, who pushes the myth is that there are a lot of vaccinations. And tries to sell a lot of nonsense on his website, but that’s a different story. The meme to the left is one that promoted by a lot of vaccine deniers (or again, vaccine delayers) that the number of vaccines has increased over the years. And, yes it has, partially because we have a lot of new vaccines since the 1980’s, but also, we have more scientific evidence that has fine-tuned the vaccine schedule to prevent diseases that can harm.

This unscientific myth has it’s basis on a belief that somehow all of these vaccines are going to damage the immune system, because “that’s just too many antigens for the young child’s immune system.” Or the vaccine deniers/delayers invent preposterous claims these excess vaccines “use up” the immune system (yes, use up). Or that because vaccines aren’t natural, they mess up the immune system. I’m sure there are other anti-scientific claims, I may not have looked hard enough.

Of course, I’d like to see the evidence for these claims. Anyone? Is there a peer-reviewed paper somewhere that establishes that anyone, a baby, child or adult, other than those with chronic diseases, has an immune system that cannot tolerate the extremely low number of antigens from vaccines?

Science

The medical and scientific evidence tell us a completely different story.

  • Mark Crislip, in the Quackwatch article, Do Children Get Too Many Immunizations? The Answer is No stated that, “delaying vaccines increases the time during which children are susceptible to certain diseases, some of which are still fairly common. Chickenpox, whooping cough, influenza, and pneumococcus still cause hospitalizations and deaths in previously healthy children. Spacing out or separating vaccines will also require more doctor visits, which will increase overall costs as well as the number of times the children must experience any associated discomfort and stress.”
  • Paul A. Offit, MD Charlotte A. Moser, BS concluded that, “at the heart of the problem with Sears’ schedules is the fact that, at the very least, they will increase the time during which children are susceptible to vaccine-preventable diseases. If more parents insist on Sears’ vaccine schedules, then fewer children will be protected, with the inevitable consequence of continued or worsening outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. In an effort to protect children from harm, Sears’ book will likely put more in harm’s way.”
  • Once again, Crislip, in the Science Based Medicine article Alternative Vaccination Schedules opined that, “the preponderance of information in the medical literature on vaccinations is as clear as any topic in medicine.  Vaccines are effective and they are safe.  The best bet for keeping your child, and your community, healthy is to get vaccinated and to do it on schedule.  There are people who see the issue differently, and is often the case, the reasons are more subtle and complicated that one would except.  And there is still much to be understood as to why people do and do not participate in the vaccination schedule.”

But there’s more

Let’s take a look at what actually happens in the real world with children’s immune systems. In this paper, researchers discovered that:

  • In each cubic meter of air, there are between 1.6 million and 40 million viruses.
  • In each cubic meter of air, there are between 860,000 and 11 million bacteria.

A child inhales about 5 liters of air per minute (or about .005 cubic meters), so a few hundred thousand viruses and bacteria are inhaled every minute every day of the year. And the researchers discovered that many were unknown species of viruses and bacteria, so the immune system has to adapt to them with each breath.

Thus, the 25-30 antigens from vaccines (depending on the age of the child and the number of different flu vaccines that they’ve received) is not even a significant number compared to the millions upon millions of viral and bacterial antigens that enter a child’s lungs every day or week. The tiny number of antigens introduced by vaccines barely register on the immune system’s massive and robust power to deal with antigens.

The antivaccination cultists fail to realize the incredible power of the immune system. It “memorizes” literally billions, if not a 1000 times more, of antigens. The handful of antigens contained by vaccines are critical because of the virulence and danger to human health of those particular pathogens–the immune system just adds that information into its memory bank, it doesn’t get overwhelmed by it.

The complicated and powerful immune system doesn’t get weakened by the “knowledge” from the vaccines. It just moves on to the next antigen, one of the few million that it sees every day. The immune system does not get weaker, unless you have chronic diseases or malnutrition. You can’t make it stronger, but vaccines cause it to adapt to that particular antigen, so that it “remembers” what to do the next time it encounters that antigen.

Conclusion

This is easy. Vaccines simply cause the development of adaptive immunity to a pathogen or antigen. This is something that happens a millions of times a day in a healthy child, teenager, and adult. If the vaccine denialists could bring one tiny bit of evidence that vaccines did something different than cause that adaptive immunity, then we could talk. But they can’t.

As Paul Offit summarized in Addressing Parents’ Concerns: Do Multiple Vaccines Overwhelm or Weaken the Infant’s Immune System?:

Current studies do not support the hypothesis that multiple vaccines overwhelm, weaken, or “use up” the immune system. On the contrary, young infants have an enormous capacity to respond to multiple vaccines, as well as to the many other challenges present in the environment. By providing protection against a number of bacterial and viral pathogens, vaccines prevent the “weakening” of the immune system and consequent secondary bacterial infections occasionally caused by natural infection.

So more evidence that vaccines do not do what vaccine deniers claim they do. And they do precisely what scientists think they do–save lives.

So, multiple vaccinations weakens the immune system? Definitely a myth unsupported by real science.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in October 2013. It has been completely revised and updated to include more comprehensive information, to improve readability and to add current research.

Key citations:

 

  • Michael McLaughlin

    This article generally sweeps under the rug any evidence that vaccines can be harmful. The very idea that absolutely nothing negative happens from them is hilarious and ridiculous, and automatically discredits people who say it in my eyes. And this is why more and more people are questioning vaccines – not one iota is admitted by anyone and it becomes increasingly obvious that information is simply not what everyone thinks it is.

  • Sandy Perlmutter

    Where did we get this collection of idiots? Your article is wonderful and I appreciate it.

  • Dorit Reiss

    Thank you for addressing this very, very problematic claim.

  • Don Mega

    Calling anyone cultist or other childish names shows your own vulnerability and ego in the play. Brings in front of me an image of an angry troll that isn’t comfortable where he is. It really took away from the credibility of your article. You take this topic as a part of your own identity and are personally hurt by anyone who questions it. At which point i already stopped reading. You have lot of data, but it’s wasted on a poor delivery. Writing in a way one can associate with and agree with even if one disagree of the content is a skill you haven’t developed yet. You don’t want anyone to politely agree to disagree with you, but you need people to get emotional over the topic just like you. Your writing is confrontational in a way if put into words would sound like “look at me even if you despise me i need the attention or i feel i don’t exist”. Probably why you started the blog with noble intentions, but your ego came in the way and now reverted the article into calling people who don’t agree with you names. Your massive online ego pushes through between the words into the reader’s eyes.

  • Guest

    I think vaccines are brilliant. My pharmaceutical company is making billions because 100,000 babies are being vaccinated to ensure the survival of the 1 that might not make it. My P&L account has never looked better, and of course government supports my company because thankfully I’m able to afford them some helpful donations to their campaign, provided of course that healthcare policies don’t change. I totally disagree with these anti-vaccination nut jobs making wild claims that our immune systems are being wekeaned. That’s crazy talk! Who are these conspiracy theorists? Luckily, thanks to the good sense of senators, governers and other important highly-placed politicians, doctors agree with me the more vaccinations the better.

    FOLLOW THE MONEY. WHO STANDS TO GAIN? WHEN YOU KNOW THIS YOU WILL KNOW ALL THE ANSWERS.

    • http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php Skeptical Raptor

      So, saving one life isn’t worth it. Yup, you are a loathsome vile human being.

      • Herminator

        Of course it’s worth it – I make billions from it, lol. I don’t mind at all that immune systems of millions of perfectly healthy children are dosed up ‘just in case’. I can see you fancy yourself as a bit of a well-informed ‘guru’ but the language you use is pure rhetoric and reads appallingly, and sadly for you, I think many others would whole-heartedly agree.

    • Dorit Reiss

      You haven’t actually pointed out anything inaccurate with the article. And as pointed below, dismissing lives saved is problematic.

      I could highlight that pharmaceutical companies would make much more money out of the return of disease – but frankly, I’d like to ask you first why you think it’s a problem for a company to be paid for a life-saving product. Seems a situation where payment is very appropriate.

  • Herminator

    Blogger, your article is full of rhetoric and does not give a balanced view in the slightest. Your writing style is surprisingly dismissive for a person that claims to be scientific. Scientists are supposed to be objective and you have in no way, shape or form addressed the other sides to this argument.
    It is obvious you cannot be trusted from your opening paragraph “If you explore the dark and myth filled back alleys of the antivaccination movement, you will find a wide variety of myths that try to convince people that vaccinating children is dangerous.”
    Not TOO much of an attempt to sway the reader early on, oh no! A similar style of promoting beliefs was used by a certain anti-semitic war-leader some years ago.

    • http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php Skeptical Raptor

      By balanced you mean present all of the evidence that supports the safety and efficacy of vaccines, followed by all the lies and bullshit from the science deniers. No way. Not going to play that game.

      BTW, conflating promoting scientific evidence with the Holocaust implies that you don’t have a clue about the Holocaust and are thus a racist, antisemitic jerk. Go away.

      • Herminator

        More rhetoric and bad manners. Poor, poor Skeptical Raptor. Does someone need a hug? :(

        • Herminator

          Oh, and just to be clear, I was ‘conflating’ the methods employed to push beliefs rather than the subject matter. I think a smart person would have managed to spot the difference. Never mind :(

  • Herminator

    I think vaccines are brilliant. My pharmaceutical company is making billions because 100,000 babies are being vaccinated to ensure the survival of the 1 that might not make it. My P&L account has never looked better, and of course government supports my company because thankfully I’m able to afford them some helpful donations to their campaign, provided of course that healthcare policies don’t change. I totally disagree with these anti-vaccination nut jobs making wild claims that our immune systems are being wekeaned. That’s crazy talk! Who are these conspiracy theorists? Luckily, thanks to the good sense of senators, governers and other important highly-placed politicians, doctors agree with me the more vaccinations the better.

    FOLLOW THE MONEY. WHO STANDS TO GAIN? WHEN YOU KNOW THIS YOU WILL KNOW ALL THE ANSWERS.

    Skeptical Raptor your article is full of rhetoric and does not give a balanced view in the slightest.

  • Someone

    You have not provided any evidence in this small minded post that vacciantion does not cause weakening of the immune system. Why don’t you watch a few of dr Suzanne Humphries presentations or dr Russell Blaylock then come back and try to say vaccination is always safe and risk free. No child in a natural setting would acquire diphtheria, pertussis, hep b, pneumonia, hib, etc. All in the same day. These diseases would never enter the body through the largest organ of the body called the skin. The normal process of infection would be through the nasal passages, mouth or eyes. In this respect the body would respond properly. The immune system IS imbalanced due to vaccination making it susceptible to autommunity and allergies. Man is not smarter than nature! Remember that!!!!

    • notation

      You are truly incredibly stupid and ignorant. You have no idea what you’re talking about. I don’t doubt that you never made it through high school.

      • Someone

        I believe YOU are ignorant my friend. Many who never made it through high school are the richest , most successful and smartest in the world. Unfortunately I did make it through that government institution of indoctrination you call high school. Thank god they didn’t succeed in dumbing me down as I’m able to be an independent thinker and not follow the herd:)

        • notation

          You’re an idiot. You confuse “independent thinker” with “conspiracy theorist” because you are too dumb to understand the science-based evidence that shows how vaccines work.

          • Someone

            Don’t be jealous.

          • notation

            Don’t worry.

          • Don Mega

            I’m afraid it’s you who mistakes the 2. Think about it longer than 10sec and you’ll know

    • notation

      You are an ignoramus. Humphries and Blaylock? It is to laugh. They are quacks and you choose to believe them because you’re a dumbbell.

      You don’t understand how vaccines work and it shows in every word you write. Get an education.

      And stop lying. Nobody said vaccination is “risk-free.” Seat-belts aren’t risk-free, you simpleminded dolt.

      • Someone

        Anyone that speaks against the agenda is considered a quack of course…. I believe western medicine doctors to be quacks.

        • notation

          You don’t know anything about “medicine,” western or otherwise, you phony.

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    • Herminator

      In my view this is the most likely reason that so many vaccinations, antibiotics, anti-depressants, sleeping pills (shall I go on) are dished out out to the masses. MONEY, NOT AN INTEREST IN THE HEALTH OF THE POPULATION. Spot on Orang.

      • Raphaël Khoury

        What I don’t undersand about this idea is, wouldn’t the pharma cie make even more money by NOT manifactuering any vaccines? I mean, 1/3 of the people who got measles in the “Disney Land” epidemic had to be hospitalized, costing thousands of dollars each. (vs maybe 1$ profit for a vaccine). If big Pharma stopped making vaccines, millions of people would get the Measles, that tens of millions treating them, plus 1 in 20 person who gets measles will turn blinddeathmentally retarded generating even more profits.

        At the very least, why don’t they start injecting us with placebo instead of vaccines. Tehy make the 1$ from selling the placebo-vaccine, the thousands of $ from treating measles, and they be protected from lawsuits arising from any side-effects.

        • Michael McLaughlin

          No, the problem would be that if no one got vaccinated for the measles, they might be quite surprised to find that measles cases didn’t really go up very much, and that those who got the measles mostly stayed at home until they were better – requiring no medical intervention at all.

          • Raphaël Khoury

            How can you beleive that when (1) measles cases cluster around counties with low immunizations, and (2) 1/3 of people with meales in USA requiere hospitalizations, costing thousands of dollards (a lot more than the vaccine)?? Measles aready killed a baby in Germany last year, and a woman in WA.

            Without the vaccine, everyone would get the measles. Everyone got it before vaccines, and it left its mark on thousands of people each year: blindness, deafness, mental retardation and death. A rate of 1/1000 is not low for a desease that everyone gets.

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