Having Too Many Vaccines: We Should be So Lucky

At last night’s Republican’s presidential candidate debate the vaccine issue arose. I believe that infectious diseases are worth talking about in these types of forums because the government has an important role in keeping its citizens safe from infectious disease. However, when vaccines are discussed by presidential candidates the exchange often proceeds as if there actually is a question about their benefit.

Often, the media continually dangles these red meat questions in front of candidates who apparently care less for the truth than they do pandering to people whose votes I would never want. Last night Donald Trump delivered answers that were concerning (I thought it was cool that the Washington Post dug out an old quote from me on the topic for their coverage).

While Dr. Carson explicitly—and thankfully—rejected the false notion of any link between autism spectrum disorder and vaccines, he did give credence to the idea that there are too many vaccines administered in too short a time with which Mr. Trump agreed.

Make no mistake, Dr. Carson is a world-class pediatric neurosurgeon who has advanced his field immeasurably and, as a physician, I deeply respect his unequivocal achievements. However, on the issue of too many vaccines over too short a period, the evidence clearly does not support Dr. Carson's position--though his statement regarding the relative importance of certain vaccines based on the severity of the disease they intend to prevent is valid (and why vaccines such as the influenza vaccine are not mandated by government schools).

While it is true that the vaccination schedule has become increasingly more extensive and that is something I am thankful for. We now have vaccines against human papillomavirus, pneumococcus, hemophilus, rotavirus, varicella, and meningooccus—diseases that children, and adults, no longer have to fear. I actually wish there were more vaccines to administer to children and to adults.

It must be remembered, however, that though there are more vaccines routinely administered they are of such purity that the load on the immune system of all of them combined is less than what was in the once routinely administered smallpox vaccines. Moreover, a child’s immune system is literally bombarded with foreign invaders, foreign materials, and myriad challenges that our current high purity vaccines pale by comparison.

The immunization schedule is not divined from tea leaves, it is made after rigorous deliberation by medical professionals who weigh mountains of data on immunogenicity, safety, and epidemiology. Vaccines have transformed our children into bionic $20 billion men and women and, until more diseases meet the fate of smallpox, the more vaccines the better.