Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Are Childhood Vaccines Dangerous?

What do you think of current vaccination schedules for infants? They seem very crowded, and I've heard that among other possible risks, there are concerns they might be linked to developmental disabilities?

Answer (Published 11/1/2006)

Reviewed on 3/08/2010

The infant vaccination schedule does seem crowded, but this is a deliberate strategy, part of a national effort to have every child in the United States fully immunized by age two. If you adhere to the schedule, your child would have up to 24 injections in the first two years of life. These include vaccines to prevent diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough, polio, hepatitis A and B, influenza type B, measles, mumps, rubella, pneumonia and meningitis.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor for Energy - If you are a parent or grandparent, you know that abundant energy is vital when it comes to keeping up with the kids. Certain supplements can help keep you energized, naturally - learn more, and get your free, personalized Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor Recommendation.

The advantage of adhering to the schedule is that kids will get full protection from these diseases early in life. The downside is the need to follow a complicated and sometimes confusing schedule, as well as recognizing that youngsters who don't follow the immunization schedule tend not to catch up. This can leave them unprotected against whooping cough, hepatitis, meningitis, and flu.

Most of us haven't come in contact with the diseases we're vaccinated against and may not appreciate how severe they can be. The only infectious disease that has been eradicated so far is smallpox, but the others still occur frequently. You may remember the mumps outbreak in the spring of 2006. While the disease usually is mild when it occurs in children, it can lead to infertility among men who are infected as adults. An outbreak of whooping cough in 2005 occurred among adults whose childhood vaccinations no longer protected them (an adult vaccine is now available). The coughing due to this disease can be so severe that it can result in broken ribs, pneumonia, and seizures.

Diphtheria, a disease that is rare but not unknown in the United States today, causes a thick, tough, gray membrane to form and grow in the throat. In young children, this membrane can close off the upper airway making breathing impossible. What's more, a toxin produced in the body during the illness can affect various organs including the heart and brain causing damage that can be deadly. And as for polio, most of us have never seen its devastating effects, for which we should be quite grateful. (The vaccine has virtually eliminated the disease in the western world since the 1950's.)

If you decide to space out your child's vaccinations, speak to your pediatrician about an alternate schedule, or check the "catch up" schedule posted online at:

I'm aware of the anti-immunizations movement fueled by parental concerns about developmental disabilities, but I don't think there is any good evidence linking the vaccines to these disorders, which is why my daughter had all her shots as scheduled. If you're concerned about side effects, have your pediatrician check your children over first (serious reactions are more likely in sick children). You also may want to look into homeopathic treatments designed to reduce the risk of vaccine reactions.

Take any precautions you feel are necessary, but I urge you to have your children immunized as recommended. Although immunizations are not without risks, the risks are much lower than those that come with the diseases they are meant to prevent.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here