Babies Online - The Blog

New Children’s Vaccines: Why Is the US Playing Catch Up?

Several news headlines about children’s vaccines caught my attention as well as that of fellow blogger Dawn Allcot last week .

FDA Approves 5-in-1 Children’s VaccineHealthDay News

New Combination Vaccine for Children – New option could mean fewer shots for 4 to 6 year-olds in the U.S. – PRNewsWire News Releases

Controversies have been brewing over children vaccination. On the one hand, many parents feel their kids are getting too many shots, sometimes with serious repercussions (see posts on autism). On the other hand, the recent serious outbreaks of measles and chicken pox in the US and many European countries remind us of the reasons for immunization.

What surprised me about these news is the line that said

Currently, children in the United States receive up to 23 injections by the time they’re 18 months old, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

I couldn’t seem to recall that my sons, now 5, had that many shots in Germany. So I went through our immunization records and counted.

My boys had each, in total, 11 shots. Six of these are highly recommended (though not compulsory) and paid for by the state health insurance. The other four, the shots for varicella (chicken pox) and pneumococcal or PCV were optional and cost extra.

Then, I revisited the BOL the post on the CDC guidelines on children’s vaccinations and compared. And I was quite shocked!

For a clearer comparison, I’ve prepared the following table comparing the number of injections a child of 18 months can get in Germany and the US:

German recommended shots (up to 18 months)

  • 4 doses of 6-in-1 vaccine against tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, haemophilus influenzae type b, hepatitis B and polio
  • 2 doses of 3-in-1 vaccine against mumps, measles, and rubella
  • 4 doses of vaccine against pneumococcus (optional)
  • 1 dose of vaccine against varicella (optional)

Total without optionals: 6

Total with optionals: 11

American recommended shots (up to 18 months, excluding hepatitis A)

  • 3 doses of vaccine against hepatitis B
  • 4 doses of vaccine against pneumococcus
  • 3 doses of vaccine against rotavirus
  • 4 doses of vaccine against haemophilus influenzae type b
  • 3 doses of vaccine against polio
  • 5 doses of vaccine against tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis
  • 2 doses of 3-in-1 vaccine against mumps, measles, and rubella
  • 1 dose of vaccine against varicella

Total: 24

In this table, we see American babies get way more shots than (my) German babies by age 18 months. Had I opted out of the two optional vaccines, my boys would have gotten only 6 shots – compared to 24!.

So why the big difference in the number of shots?

For one thing, Germans do not give shots against rotavirus. But the major difference is due to the fact that my sons seem to have gotten more combi-shots. A combi-vaccine is one vaccine which works against several diseases.

So indeed the news items were right – the combi-vaccines would indeed drastically reduce the number of shots that an American baby gets. But the question is, WHY ONLY NOW?

It’s only a few days ago (June 20, 2008) the US FDA approved Pentacel, a vaccine is to be used for active immunization against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, poliomyelitis and haemophilus influenzae type b. The vaccine can be given as early as 6 weeks and right up to before a child’s 5th birthday. Four days later, (June 24, 2008), the FDA approved another combi-vaccine Kinrix, this time for 4 to 6 year-olds. Pentacel is manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur and Kinrix by GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals.

I am no vaccination expert even though I work in the pharmaceutical industry. I therefore can’t tell you why it’s only now that the US is playing catch up when it comes to using combi-vaccines whereas this seems to be common practice in Germany (and most probably in other European countries as well) 5 years ago or even earlier.

I can’t also tell you whether these new combi-vaccines are more effective or less effective than monovalent vaccines. Or whether they will lower the incidence of vaccine-associated autism.

All I can say is that, I am all for immunization but the less pain for baby, the less pain for everybody.

4 Responses to “New Children’s Vaccines: Why Is the US Playing Catch Up?”


Get Your Baby's Fun Birthday Facts

Enter your baby's birth or due date for fun facts including baby's birthstone, birth flower, horoscope, graduation date, "this day in history" and much more!

Baby's birth or due date:

Save my information

Connect with Us

Connect with us on Facebook
Tweet us on Twitter
Stumble Upon Babies Online     Babies Online RSS Feed