Waiting for vaccinations doesn't help
Concern about mercury in vaccinations, the worry that they might cause autism, and a host of other what-ifs have many, many parents in Portland delaying vaccinations for their children -- or, in some cases, foregoing them altogether. Tales of chicken pox parties are common, and among the reviews of any local pediatrician is her attitude toward vaccinations. Results of a study that had originally been designed to study whether thimerosal produced an autism risk (this connection has been discredited) now say that children who undergo a delayed vaccination schedule, or who don't get all the recommended vaccinations, don't have any neurodevelopmental benefit -- in fact, they may do worse.
The study was conducted on children born between 1993 and 1997, and new vaccination schedules contain more vaccines that are formulated with less antigens; so the researchers believe the effect should be about the same now. It also doesn't necessarily suggest that vaccinations improve a child's brain development, as there is a correlation between parents' income and education levels, and keeping a vaccination schedule (at least in this study group -- I imagine in some neighborhoods in Portland, New York, Berkeley, and San Francisco today, the correlation is opposite, that is, parents with more education are more likely to delay vaccinations).
As a mama who generally kept her kids on schedule for their vaccinations, and has definitely suffered much in the way of neurodevelopmental delay, I'm happy to see this -- I generally don't place any of the blame for my children's brain function on the hearth of the CDC's suggested vaccination schedule. I worry more about persistent environmental chemicals, especially those to which the kids were exposed in utero or in their licensed-character jammies, than those dosed via wicked needle several times during my kids' infancy and young childhood.
The licensed-character flame retardant-packed jammies are in a trash bag, the vaccinations are up to date, and I think this news gives me some small comfort with my choices. I think it would be revealing, though, to do the study again in some neighborhoods like the ones in which many of us live, with children born in the past decade, the age of heightened autism fears. I'd bet the neurodevelopmental benefit from sticking to the vaccine schedule would be erased -- but it wouldn't mean much.