Why following a delayed vaccine schedule may be dangerous

by Steve Perry, MD

I recently read a post by Dr. Bob Sears which listed several “Vaccine Friendly Doctors” in Colorado and across the nation.

As a pediatrician and vaccine advocate, I thought I’d be on this list. I am “vaccine-friendly doctor” who works with moms and dads to find the best health care plan for their babies. I read the information on both sides of the issue and weighed the science against the emotional worry that so many parents feel about vaccines. While I always recommend vaccination by the CDC schedule, I always listen to parents concerns.

But, much to my surprise, I was not on this list. After a looking closer, I found that those on the list are a small population of physicians that are “friendly” to the “alternative” or delayed vaccine schedule outlined in Dr. Sears’ The Vaccine Book. The delayed vaccine schedule calls for a drawn-out vaccine plan based on Dr. Sears’ beliefs on calming parental vaccine fears. This delayed schedule has no research or science backing it, it is simply one pediatrician’s opinion.

The biggest medical problem with the delayed schedule is that it leaves babies open to disease for a longer period of time. If a baby is vaccinated by the CDC’s tried, tested and true vaccine schedule, that baby will have immunity to over 14 diseases by the age of two! With the CDC recommended schedule, babies visit their doctor five times in the first 15 months and receive protection against up to 14 diseases in as little as 18 shots if using combination vaccines, or as many as 26 shots if using individual antigens.

We immunize children so young against these diseases because infancy is the time period that kids are MOST vulnerable to life-threatening diseases. The people at greatest risk of dying from vaccine-preventable disease are the very young and the very old. We vaccinate to save lives.

On the delayed schedule, by 15 months of age children will have only received immunity against eight diseases. They miss out on measles, rubella, chickenpox, Hep A, and Hep B. 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 the CDC schedule.

Beyond Dr. Sears advocating for a medically untested vaccine schedule, I was dismayed at his classification of physicians like myself who vaccinate according to the CDC schedule. Because we follow the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC’s vaccine guidelines we are “unfriendly” doctors? Because I am following the science of my colleagues I am an “unfriendly” doctor?

This type of misinformation is damaging to families and physicians. It is the power of words that plant seeds of doubt in the minds of parents to fear vaccines. It’s this misleading information that manipulates parents into feeling that they are bad parents if they don’t question the safety and validity of vaccines.

As a pediatrician, I know it can be confusing for parents who get so much information about vaccines every day online and on TV. We all want to be informed advocates for our children’s health. Reading a balance of both sides allows parents to make an informed choice.

The best place to start the conversation about vaccines is with your pediatrician or by reading reputable sites like the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition at www.childrensimmunization.org. This non-profit does not accept donations from pharmaceutical companies and works to improve childhood vaccination rates across Colorado.

The reason I became a pediatrician was to protect children from illness and disease. Dr. Bob may only define “vaccine-friendly doctors” as those who promote his book, but the overwhelming data on the effectiveness and safety of vaccination makes it easy for us all to become a vaccine-friendly community. I hope that parents take time to read information on both sides of the issue, brings their questions to their physician and makes fully informed decisions about their child’s health.

Steve Perry is a pediatrician at Cherry Creek Pediatrics in Denver, Colorado and co-chair of the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition’s Policy Committee.

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