What Is the Harm in Delaying or Spacing Out Vaccines?

Paul A. Offit, MD, answers the common question from parents about changing the recommended vaccine schedule.


What is the harm in delaying or spacing out vaccines?

Paul Offit, MD: Hi, my name’s Paul Offit. I’m talking to you today from the Vaccine Education Center here at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Probably the most common question that we get asked in our Center, “Is it OK to delay, or withhold, or separate, or space out vaccines?” Or said in other ways, “Is it OK to use kind of an alternative vaccine schedule?” One where children aren’t vaccinated with as many vaccines in the first couple years of life.

The answer to that question is no, it’s not OK to do that for a couple of reasons. One, there has been extensive testing using so-called concomitant use studies showing that when a new vaccine is added to the schedule that it doesn’t interfere with the  immunogenicity profile, or the safety profile of existing vaccines, and vice versa — that existing vaccines don't interfere with the safety profile or the immunogenicity profile of existing vaccines.

So the schedule as it’s currently recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics is well tested. To make up another schedule is to essentially use an untested schedule.

Secondly, there is no advantage to delaying vaccines. All that does is increase the period of time during which children are susceptible to these viral or bacterial infections with no benefits. Although it may feel better, I think more for the parent than the child, to delay vaccines, it really doesn’t help the child.

I think the third point is, and parents could reasonably argue, that when you get four or five shots at once, that that’s far more stress provoking than say if a child got one or two shots. That’s actually been studied. The way the physiologist measure stress is looking at cortisol secretion by the adrenal glands as a measure of stress if you will. And you’re actually no more stressed out when you get multiple vaccines than when you get a single vaccine. Which is to say you’re pretty much maximally stressed out as one shot, just after one shot.

So to bring a child back more frequently, or even worse, to sort of delay vaccines until they’re older, is only, frankly, to increase the stress associated with vaccination. So there is no benefit to delaying, or separating, or spacing out, or withholding vaccines. Children are best served by giving them a schedule as recommended by the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Hope that helps, thanks.

Related Centers and Programs: Vaccine Education Center

Last Reviewed on Aug 11, 2015