Multiple immunizations weaken immune system–Myth vs. Science

If you peruse the back alleys of the antivaccination movement, you will find a wide variety of myths that try to convince people that vaccinating children is dangerous. Or if you don’t want to vaccinate your children, the information is easily available. It doesn’t take much effort on google to find websites that provide you with the . Those 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. 

Myth

The basis of this myth is that there are a lot of vaccinations. The meme above is one that pushed by a lot of vaccine denialists that the number of vaccines has increased over the years, and yes it has. The CDC vaccine schedule is somewhat different that the scare poster above, but it’s not too far off (pdf).

From that “too many vaccines” myth, it branches into a lot of sub-myths. One is that there because of all of the scary toxins in the vaccines, and the kids are getting more of them with all of the scary vaccines. Well, I’ll leave that for another day, but just understand that the kids aren’t.

But the bigger sub myth is that somehow all of these vaccines are going to damage the immune system, because “that’s too many antigens for the young child’s immune system.” They make 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.

Science

If you’re worried about too many vaccines, here’s what the experts say:

  • Do Children Get Too Many Immunizations? The Answer is No, Mark Crislip–”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.”
  • The Problem With Dr Bob’s Alternative Vaccine SchedulePaul A. Offit, MD Charlotte A. Moser, BS–”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.”
  • Alternative Vaccination Schedules, Mark Crislip (Science Based Medicine)–”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.”

Those links will provide you with great deconstructions of the “too many vaccination” myths. But let’s make it even simpler, at least to demolish the myth that somehow all of those vaccines are going to overwhelm the child’s immune system. In this paper, the 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 breathes about 5 liters of air per minute (or about .005 cubic meters), so a few hundred thousand viruses and bacteria are inhaled every minute. And the researchers discovered that many were unknown species, 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. It barely registers on the immune system’s massive scale of power in dealing with antigens.

The antivaccination cultists fail to realize the incredible power of the immune system. It “memorizes” literally billions, if not trillions, of antigens. The handful of antigens set up by vaccines are critical because of their virulence and danger to human health, but the immune system just adds that information into its memory bank, it doesn’t get overwhelmed by it. It 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.

What the Skeptical Raptor says

This is easy. Vaccines simply cause the development of adaptive immunity to a pathogen or antigen. This is something that happens 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.

Vaccines Save Lives.

Use the Science-based Vaccine Search Engine.

The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!