Tag: passive immunity

Is the MMR Safe for 6-Month-Old Babies?

Most parents understand that the first dose of the MMR vaccine is routinely given to children when they are 12 to 15 months old, at least in the United States.

In some other countries, the first dose is routinely given as early as 8 to 9-months of age.

And in high-risk situations, the MMR can safely be given to infants as early as age 6-months.

Is the MMR Safe for 6 Month Old Babies?

An early MMR, is that safe?

This type of pure anti-vaccine propaganda is what caused the measles outbreaks in New York in the first place...
This type of pure anti-vaccine propaganda is what caused the measles outbreaks in New York in the first place…

Yes, it is safe.

What about the package insert?

“Local health authorities may recommend measles vaccination of infants between 6 to 12 months of age in outbreak situations. This population may fail to respond to the components of the vaccine. Safety and effectiveness of mumps and rubella vaccine in infants less than 12 months of age have not been established. The younger the infant, the lower the likelihood of seroconversion (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY). Such infants should receive a second dose of M-M-R II between 12 to 15 months of age followed by revaccination at elementary school entry.”

MMR II Package Insert

The package insert says to give infants who get an early dose another dose when they are 12 to 15 months old! It doesn’t say to not protect these babies!

But what about the idea that the safety and effectiveness of MMR hasn’t been proven for infants under 12 months of age?

In general, the package insert is only going to list studies that the manufacturer used to get FDA approval for their vaccine. Since it is an off-label recommendation of the ACIP, they would not include the studies that show that an early MMR is safe and effective.

“In conclusion, this study indicated that the MMR was well tolerated and immunogenic against measles, mumps and rubella with schedule of first dose both at 8 months and 12 months age. Our findings strongly supported that two doses of MMR can be introduced by replacing the first dose of MR in current EPI with MMR at 8 months age and the second dose at 18 months in China.”

He et al on Similar immunogenicity of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine administrated at 8 months versus 12 months age in children.

Before 8 months, an early MMR isn’t likely to be as effective as giving it later. That’s because some maternal antibodies might linger in a baby’s system and can interfere with the vaccine working, even after six months. How many antibodies and how much interference?

It’s almost impossible to tell for any one child, but the risk that this maternal protection has begun to wear off and these infants are at risk to develop measles is too great. That’s the reason that they get an early MMR, even though we know it won’t be as effective as a dose given later and we know it will have to be repeated.

Is this early dose safe?

“This review did not identify any major safety concerns. These findings may facilitate discussions about the risks and benefits of vaccinating infants who are potentially exposed to this life-threatening disease.”

Woo et al on Adverse Events After MMR or MMRV Vaccine in Infants Under Nine Months Old

Of course! Although the complications of measles can be serious, even deadly, we aren’t going to recommend something that is even worse.

“Early MMR vaccination is well tolerated, with the lowest AE frequencies found in infants aged 6-8 months. It is a safe intervention for protecting young infants against measles.”

van der Maas et al on Tolerability of Early Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccination in Infants Aged 6-14 Months During a Measles Outbreak in The Netherlands in 2013-2014.

So an early MMR is safe, with few risks, and is likely effective at preventing measles.

And by now you know what’s not safe. That’s right, getting measles.

More on Early MMR Vaccines

What Is a Vaccine?

You know what a vaccine is, right?

The word vaccine comes from the vaccinia virus that was in the original smallpox vaccine.
The word vaccine comes from the vaccinia virus that was in the original smallpox vaccine.

The flu shot you get each year is a vaccine.

Vaccine: A product that stimulates a person’s immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease, protecting the person from that disease. Vaccines are usually administered through needle injections, but can also be administered by mouth or sprayed into the nose.

Immunization: The Basics

The smallpox shot that Edward Jenner developed was a vaccine.

Vaccine Definitions

While that is an easy enough definition to understand, that there are many different types of vaccines does make it a little more complicated.

There are:

  • Live-attenuated vaccines – made from a weakened or attenuated form of a virus or bacteria
  • Inactivated vaccines – made from a killed form of virus or bacteria
  • Subunit, recombinant, polysaccharide, and conjugate vaccines – made from only specific pieces of a virus or bacteria
  • Toxoid vaccines – made to target a toxin that a bacteria makes and not the bacteria itself

And of course all of these types of vaccines work to produce immunity to specific diseases – vaccination.

Immunization: A process by which a person becomes protected against a disease through vaccination. This term is often used interchangeably with vaccination or inoculation.

Immunization: The Basics

What other definitions are important to know when you talk about vaccines?

  • active immunity – immunity that you get from having a disease (natural immunity) or getting a vaccine and making antibodies
  • adjuvant – a substance that helps boost your body’s immune response to a vaccine so that you can use a minimum amount of antigen, reducing side effects
  • antibodies – protective proteins that you make against antigens
  • antigens – specific substances (can be part of a virus or bacteria) that trigger an immune response
  • attenuation – a virus or bacteria that is made less potent, so that it can produce an immune response without causing disease
  • elimination – getting rid of a disease in a specific area
  • endemic – the baseline level of disease in an area
  • eradication – getting rid of a disease everywhere (smallpox)
  • epidemic – an increase in the number of cases of a disease over a large geographic area
  • herd immunity – when enough people in a community are protected and have immunity, so that disease is unlikely to spread
  • immunity – protection against a disease
  • incubation period – how long it takes to develop symptoms after you are exposed to a disease
  • outbreak – an increase in the number of cases of a disease over a small geographic area
  • pandemic – an increase in the number of cases of a disease over several countries or continents
  • passive immunity – temporary immunity that you get after being given antibodies, either via a shot of immunoglobulin or a mother’s antibodies are transferred to her baby through her placenta
  • placebo – classically defined as “a comparator in a vaccine trial that does not include the antigen under study”
  • quarantine – isolating someone so that they don’t get others sick
  • titer – an antibody count that can often be used to predict immunity

Got all of that?

So what about variolation, the process that was used before Jenner developed his smallpox vaccine? Was that also a vaccine?

It did produce immunity to smallpox, which is the basic definition of a vaccine, but still, variolation is typically concerned an immunization technique and not a vaccine.

More on Vaccine Definitions

Is the La Leche League Anti-Vaccine?

Why would anyone think that the La Leche League, an organization who’s mission is to support breastfeeding, might be against vaccines?

“Many parents have questions about the compatibility of vaccines and breastfeeding. Your healthcare provider can address any questions that come up for you.”

la leche league international on Vaccines

They certainly don’t make any strong statements supporting vaccines…

“The LLLI Health Advisory Council suggests families discuss the pros and cons of influenza vaccines with their health care practitioners.”

la leche league international on Influenza

The cons of influenza vaccines?

What are those exactly? That the protection babies get from their mother’s pregnancy flu shot doesn’t last until they go to college?

What’s the greatest evidence that they might not support vaccines? I mean, besides anti-vaccine La Leache League leaders who actively say that they are against vaccines?

Bob Sears is giving two lectures  on vaccines at an upcoming La Leche League breastfeeding conference.
What exactly will Bob Sears be talking about during his two lectures on vaccines at this upcoming La Leche League breastfeeding conference?

Bob Sears is giving two lectures on vaccines at an upcoming La Leche League breastfeeding conference.

Will he really discuss the benefits of vaccines for pregnant and post-partum mothers and their families?

“Dr. Bob Sears, a renowned Dana Point pediatrician who has been sought out by parents who wish to opt out of the state’s mandatory vaccine requirements, has been placed on probation for 35 months by the Medical Board of California.”

Dr. Bob Sears, renowned vaccine skeptic, placed on probation for exempting child from all vaccinations

And considering that he nearly lost his medical license over giving an improper vaccine exemption, what can we really expect from his talk on California’s vaccine law?

“Remember that La Leche League is exclusively focused on breastfeeding support and has no stance on vaccinations.”

La Leche League USA

No stance on vaccinations?

Actually, with bringing Dr. Bob to their conference, it seems like they made a very clear stance…

“Nursing also allows your baby to give germs to you so that your immune system can respond and can synthesize antibodies! This means that if your baby has come in contact with something which you have not, (s)he will pass these germs to you at the next nursing; during that feeding, your body will start to manufacture antibodies for that particular germ. By the time the next feeding arrives, your entire immune system will be working to provide immunities for you and your baby. If you are exposed to any bacteria or viruses, your body will be making antibodies against them and these will be in your milk.”

Can Breastfeeding Prevent Illnesses?

And they have also done a good job of making it sound like breastfeeding infants don’t need vaccines.

They do!

While breastfeeding is great, it is not a substitute for getting vaccinated. In fact, antibodies in breast milk will not protect a baby against most vaccine-preventable diseases.

If the La Leche League truly wants to support what’s best for kids, they should move away from pushing non-evidence based therapies, especially craniosacral therapy and referrals to chiropractors for breastfeeding problems, and they should take a stand supporting vaccines.

The La Leche League is on this list of other organizations that speak out against vaccines.
The La Leche League is on this list of other organizations that speak out against vaccines.

Then maybe they wouldn’t appear on any lists from the NVIC.

More on Vaccines and the La Leche League

Do My Kids Need the RSV Vaccine?

While I’m sure that many parents would love to get their kids vaccinated and protected against RSV, unfortunately, we don’t yet have an actual RSV vaccine.

We do have Synagis (palivaizumab) though, a monthly injection that can be given to high risk children during RSV season to help prevent them from getting RSV.

Do My Kids Need Synagis?

Synagis is not a vaccine and doesn’t stimulate your body to make antibodies,  but is instead an injection of RSV antibodies made by recombinant DNA technology. That’s why you need to get an injection each month. The antibodies don’t last much longer.

So why doesn’t everyone get Synagis if RSV can be such a deadly disease?

For one thing, there is the high cost of Synagis injections, but there is also the fact that Synagis is only approved to be given to kids who are at high risk for severe RSV infections.

“Palivizumab prophylaxis has limited effect on RSV hospitalizations on a population basis, no measurable effect on mortality, and a minimal effect on subsequent wheezing.”

AAP on Updated Guidance for Palivizumab Prophylaxis Among Infants and Young Children at Increased Risk of Hospitalization for Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection

And Synagis doesn’t have as a great an effect on preventing RSV infections as we would like. That’s why we need a real RSV vaccine instead.

When to start Synagis is carefully determined by the start of RSV season.
When to start Synagis is carefully determined by the start of RSV season.

So because it likely doesn’t provide that much help to kids who aren’t at very high risk for severe disease, the latest guidelines recommend that Synagis be given to:

  • pre-term infants born before 29 weeks, 0 days’ gestation and who will be younger than 12 months at the start of the RSV season
  • preterm infants with CLD of prematurity, defined as birth at <32 weeks, 0 days’ gestation and a requirement for >21% oxygen for at least 28 days after birth.
  • certain infants with hemodynamically significant heart disease during their first year of life and might include infants with cyanotic heart defects, infants with acyanotic heart disease who are receiving medication to control congestive heart failure and will require cardiac surgical procedures and infants with moderate to severe pulmonary hypertension, infants with heart lesions that were corrected by surgery, but who continue to require medications for congestive heart failure, and children under age two years who have had a cardiac transplant.
  • certain children in their second year of life if they required at least 28 days of supplemental oxygen after birth and who continue to require medical intervention (supplemental oxygen, chronic corticosteroid, or diuretic therapy)
  • certain infants in their first year of life with pulmonary abnormality or neuromuscular disease that impairs the ability to clear secretions from the upper airways
  • certain children in their second year of life if they will be profoundly immunocompromised during RSV season

Those who qualify get up to five monthly doses, beginning in November, to help make sure they are covered through the peak of RSV season – December to May.

Whether or not your high risk child gets Synagis, you can help to reduce their risk of getting RSV by making sure they are not exposed to tobacco smoke, keep them away from crowds of people, wash hands often, and if possible, keep them out of day care.

And get them all of their other vaccines, including a flu shot once they are six months old.

What do you do if your high risk child was denied Synagis by your insurance plan? If your infant has a qualifying condition, your pediatrician should be able to help you write an appeal to your insurance company stating that getting Synagis is a medical necessity.

More on Synagis and RSV Vaccines