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Babies who get antibiotics get less protection from common childhood vaccines

ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) - Every time a child takes antibiotics, their protection from vaccines can diminish, according to a study conducted in Rochester.

“Antibiotics are miracle medicines, for sure. They kill bacteria, and they save lives,” said lead researcher Dr. Michael Pichichero, who is the director of Rochester General Hospital Research Institute. “What we're saying here is, yes, you need to vaccinate, but be aware that as children get exposed to antibiotics, there is a potential that the immunity response to those vaccines might go down.”

The study was published Wednesday in the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The study recruited 560 children, 218 of whom were given antibiotics. Pichichero said the results showed that vaccine protectiveness waned by 6% to 20% each time antibiotics were prescribed, resulting in vulnerability to diseases like whooping cough, meningitis and pneumonia.

He and his team also discovered that stronger antibiotics resulted in an even greater reduction in immunity. Also, the longer that children were on antibiotics, the greater the negative effect.

The study also revealed that children who were Black or mixed race were less likely than white children to have lower antibody responses because they were less likely to be given antibiotics.

Overall, Pichichero said these findings offer another cautionary tale for antibiotic prescribing in children.

“Don’t ask for an antibiotic if you don't need one, and doctors, don't prescribe an antibiotic unless one is needed,” Pichichero said.