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Choosing an Alternative Vaccine Schedule
 
As the debate over the safety of vaccines rages on, there is one major issue that has recently come to light: whether or not pediatricians should offer worried parents the option of vaccinating their children using a more gradual vaccine schedule. In The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child (Little Brown, 2007 - the number one selling book on the topic), Pediatrician Dr. Bob Sears discusses the option of spreading out vaccines.  The book is a balanced look at all the pros and cons of vaccinations.  Dr. Bob ultimately advises parents to get their children fully vaccinated, but he acknowledges that some parents are still going to hesitate, despite his pro-vaccine advice.
 
Dr. Bob is worried, as are all physicians and public health officials, that the growing number of unvaccinated children will create a large enough gap in our nation's immunity that many vaccine-preventable diseases will begin to increase. But physicians are divided as to how best to address worried parents' concerns.  Dr. Bob's solution is to offer parents (who otherwise would not vaccinate) an alternative vaccine schedule (presented in the last chapter of the book) that gets their children fully vaccinated, but at a more gradual pace that these parents are more comfortable with.  He doesn't feel that this spread out approach is right for everyone - it's really just an option for parents who refuse to follow the standard vaccine schedule.  A number of doctors have been giving parents this type of option for many years.
 
But not all doctors agree, and neither does the American Academy of Pediatrics, who helps make vaccine policy for our nation's children.  The AAP has taken a very firm stance against allowing parents to spread out their child's vaccines and follow a different schedule, stating that such an approach is unneccesary and only feeds in to these parents' unfounded fears.  It's an "our way or the highway" policy, so to speak.  The AAP has recently launched a nationwide campaign to quell parents' vaccine fears and encourage them to vaccinate using the standard schedule, and to discourage pediatricians from offering any other options to their patients.
 
Dr. Bob and other pediatricians, however, acknowlege that despite the AAP's reassurance that vaccines are safe, and the vast amount of safety research, some leery parents won't take the AAP's word for it and they will refuse to follow the proposed vaccine schedule.  The standard schedule calls for about 6 vaccines at each infant checkup, with as many as 28 separate injections all within the first two years of life.  Some parents worry that this is an overload of chemicals and other vaccine ingredients.
 
Dr. Bob's alternative schedule spreads the shots out, limits babies to two shots at each visit, begins with protecting babies from the most serious diseases right away, and delays a few of the less important vaccines (for diseases that a baby can't catch) until the second and third year of life, instead of grouping all vaccines together right at the start.  This allows parents, who would otherwise refuse all vaccines, to get their babies protected, and helps protect our nations as a whole by raising vaccination rates among worried parents. Dr. Bob worries that the AAP's close-minded campaign to discourage this option will back-fire and leave even more babies unvaccinated.  But by allowing worried parents to vaccinate in a manner they feel safer about, everyone wins!
 
Robert W. Sears, MD, FAAP, is a board certified pediatrician in private practice with his father, Dr. Bill Sears, in Dana Point, CA.  “Dr. Bob” received his medical degree in 1995 from Georgetown University and completed his pediatric training at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles in 1998.  He is a co-author of six books so far in the Sears Parenting Library, including The Healthiest Kid in the Neighborhood, Father’s First Steps, The Baby Book, The Premature Baby Book, and The Baby Sleep Book. His latest and first solo work, The Vaccine Book – Making the Right Decision for your Child, highlights his passion for providing America’s parents with a fair and objective look at childhood vaccines. Dr. Bob has appeared on the CBS Early Show, The Ellen Show, CNN, the Dr. Phil Show.

For more information from Dr. Bob, visit www.TheVaccineBook.com.
 

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By Dr. Bob Sears

Robert W. Sears MD, is a father of three, board-certified in Pediatrics, and co-author in the Sears Parenting Library. "Dr. Bob", as he likes to be called by his little patients, earned his medical ...

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