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The Problem With Dr. Sears and His Alternative Vaccination Schedules

One of the most contentious parenting topics these days is the issue of vaccinations. Despite the fact that the initial study that caused alarm surrounding vaccines has been completely discredited, some parents are sticking to their guns and avoiding vaccinations for their children. Other parents are following a more accepted trend of adhering to an alternative vaccine schedule. But just recently this approach has been shown to not make a difference with regard to how a child's body processes the vaccinations, and also to perhaps work in the opposite direction, causing children to be under-vaccinated.

Dr. Bob Sears, the physician who is credited with making alternative vaccine schedules popular, based his recommendations on little to no science. For decades, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Committee on Infectious Diseases have all used countless studies and data to inform their recommendations to board certified physicians on this topic. But Dr. Sears had this to say on his website:

By only giving two vaccines at a time (instead of as many as 6), I decrease the chance of chemical overload from grouping so many vaccines chemicals all together at once. This allows a baby’s body to better detoxify the chemicals one or two at a time.

And then, as Maria Guido points out, Sears writes this in his book:

Obviously, the more kids who are vaccinated, the better our country is protected and the less likely it is that any child will die from a disease. Some parents, however, aren’t willing to risk the very rare side effects of vaccines, so they choose to skip the shots. Their children benefit from herd immunity… without risking the vaccines themselves. Is this selfish? Perhaps. But as parents you have to decide. … Can we fault parents for putting their own child’s health ahead of the other kids’ around him?” There’s a fundamental flaw in that logic, isn’t there?

He admits herd immunity is necessary, but seems to think his patients can benefit by it, while not contributing to it — because the rest of us responsibly vaccinate our children and actually care about public health.

The biggest issue with delaying vaccines is that the schedule results in a much longer period over which children need to get shots, as well as far more doctor visits. The result? Parents forget to keep up and kids miss vital vaccines and boosters. If that happens, your child is no more vaccinated than someone who missed the shots altogether.

“Increasing the number of vaccines, the number of office visits, and the ages at which vaccines are administered will likely decrease immunization rates,” writes Dr. Paul A. Offit for the AAP. “In addition to the logistic problem of requiring so many office visits, Sears’ recommendation might have another negative consequence; [in 2009] outbreaks of measles showed that several children acquired the disease while waiting in their pediatricians’ offices.”

Goodbye herd immunity, hello measles epidemic.