Yes, but you may be putting your child at risk. The recommended schedule is designed to protect infants and children by providing immunity early in life, before they are exposed to life-threatening diseases. Infants and young children who follow alternative immunization schedules that spread out shots – or leave out shots – are at greater risk of infections and disease. An alternative or delayed vaccine schedule will not decrease the possibility of adverse reactions and will leave your child vulnerable to disease for a longer period of time. That being said, if your child has missed some shots for any reason, it’s better to get caught up than to skip them entirely.
Many of the diseases vaccines protect against can be very dangerous to infants. Newborns, babies, and toddlers can all be exposed to diseases from family members (even those who don’t travel), on a plane, at child care, or even at the grocery store. International travel is easier than ever – your baby can be exposed to diseases from other countries without you knowing. Even still, some vaccine-preventable diseases remain common in the United States, and children may be exposed to these diseases during the time they are not protected by vaccines, placing them at risk for a serious case of the disease.
On the Dr. Robert Sears delayed schedule, for example, children will have only received immunity against eight diseases by 15 months of age. They miss out on measles, rubella, chickenpox, hepatitis A, and hepatitis B at a time when they are most susceptible to these diseases. By 15 months, children on this delayed schedule are given 17 shots and visit the doctor’s office 9 times – almost twice as many visits to the doctor as compared to the CDC schedule.
In comparison, when a child is vaccinated by the CDC’s tried-and-tested vaccine schedule, that child will have immunity to over 14 diseases by the age of 2.
If you spread out your child’s vaccines, it amounts to lots of extra times you’ll have to go to the doctor’s office with your baby, which can get expensive if you owe a copay each time, and will expose your child to a host of illnesses in the pediatrician’s waiting room. Delaying your baby’s vaccine schedule will only increase the number of shots given (since it separates many of the combination vaccines into individual injections), and will likely decrease overall immunization rates since many parents are likely to discontinue the schedule in order to forgo the extra expense, time, and shots involved with so many additional doctor visits. And when fewer children receive the recommended vaccines, it jeopardizes community immunity – which means that family members and other close contacts who are especially vulnerable to disease, such as newborns, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems, are at greater risk of getting sick and suffering serious consequences if they are infected by unvaccinated children. [link to community immunity question]