Delaying your child's vaccinations does not give them any health benefits and may do them harm.
Some mothers hold back from getting all their child’s jabs done in one go, for fear it may be too much for them and cause damage later on. But the first research of its kind has found that these fears are unfounded, and there is no resulting improvement in their baby’s development.
In fact, a team of US scientists found that by not immunizing your child at the earliest opportunity, you are putting them in danger of potentially fatal diseases. Concerns about immunization have been acute since a now discredited study linked the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab to autism.
[Earlier this week] Dr Andrew Wakefield, who wrote the study suggesting the connection, was struck off by the General Medical Council and branded "dishonest and irresponsible." The new study, published online in the journal Paediatrics, is believed to be the first to look into the effect of delayed vaccination.
Researchers from the University of Louisville School of Medicine in Kentucky examined data collected as part of an ongoing monitoring project being carried out by the US Vaccine Safety Datalink, and compared test results for 1,047 children vaccinated from 1993 to 1997.
Some of the group were vaccinated on time - they received 10 shots by the age of seven months – and the rest had delayed immunization.
The researchers looked at intelligence, speech and behaviour tests carried out on the children several years later, and found few differences between those who got their jabs on schedule and those whose parents put them off. The on-time group even did slightly better on an intelligence test, and performed a little faster on a test asking children to name things.
Dr Michael Smith, a paediatric infectious-disease specialist at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, said: "There's not a single variable where the delayed kids did better. This study suggests that delaying vaccines does not give infants any advantage in terms of brain development." He added that not getting vaccinated put your child at greater risk from a string of diseases such as hepatitis. He compared it to unbuckling your seat belt after 20 minutes of riding in a car. ‘You don't know when you'll get hit,’ he said.
The NHS recommends children receive around 15 jabs by the time they are 18, although some of these contain five vaccinations in one. This includes the very first one - diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio and bacterial infection Hib - which is recommended to be administered at just two months. Other infections the injections guard against are MMR and the controversial cervical cancer jab, which is for girls only.
The most intensive period of vaccination is at four months, when three jabs are supposed to be administered to the child.