Taking the sting out of vaccines

VACCINE debate

For most parents, routine visits to the pediatrician for a child’s vaccination have become a game of Russian roulette, thanks to anecdotal links to autism and other developmental disorders. Today’s kids receive a whopping 39 vaccines—nearly triple what their parents received as kids—leaving many parents to fear the long-term damage this vaccine schedule may cause.

Dr. Bob Sears, a pediatrician and author, has recently written The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child. He took a few minutes to talk about some of the key points in his book that can help parents make informed decision about vaccinations.

We’ve read so much in the news the last few years about vaccines and their possible link to autism. Do parents have a reason to be afraid?

There should be healthy caution. I don’t think parents need to be afraid that anything bad is going on with vaccines in general, but I do believe parents should be cautious about the entire schedule the way it’s given right now. I think that’s the biggest problem, not any one vaccine. I think it’s the way we overload the babies with so many vaccines all at once. Babies get six separate vaccines at 2, 4 and 6 months. I think when we give so many chemicals to such a young baby, I don’t think there’s much scientific proof that that practice is safe.

Could you talk a little bit about how you help parents get around the possible autism-vaccine connection?

Mercury has been thought to be one of the biggest links between vaccines and autism, although most studies have failed to prove a link. The thing is, they took mercury out of virtually every vaccine way back in 2002. So there’s absolutely no way any of it could still be sitting on a pediatrician’s shelf. But a parent should be aware of where mercury still is—it’s still in most brands of the flu vaccine, but there is one brand of the flu shot that is 100 percent mercury free. You really have to know how to research it.

The only other place where you’ll find the full dose of mercury is some of the plain tetanus (shots). Those are the only places where you’re going to find these big doses of mercury… As long as parents know where mercury is, they can actually get the entire vaccine schedule mercury-free.

Also, I suggest parents delay the measles portion of the MMR because that one vaccine seems to have the most potential risk in terms of autism. There’s certainly no scientific proof of that, it’s anecdotal. We give the MMR at age 1 and because autism seems to become apparent between ages 1 and 3, parents could actually just delay the (measles portion) of the vaccine and wait until their child has developed past the age where autism would occur. When a child is 3 or 4 and clearly has no sign of developmental delay, then you give the measles.

We only have about 50 to 100 cases of measles in the U.S. every year. So given how rare it is, I think it is perfectly safe for parents to leave their young children susceptible to measles by delaying that vaccine.

What about the large amount of chemicals when so many vaccines are given at once?

There are many, many chemicals (in vaccines). The primary ones in the vaccines that may be a concern are aluminum and formaldehyde. Aluminum is a metal, like mercury, and it’s also very toxic to the brain when you get too much all at once. Four out of the six shots babies get at 2, 4 and 6 months contain aluminum. It’s much safer to make sure baby’s only getting one aluminum shot at a time, instead of all four together.

Formaldehyde is another chemical in a variety of vaccines; it’s in three of the six vaccines babies get at that young age and it’s another example of, if you only give one at a time, the baby’s not exposed to as high levels at a time.

When it comes to chemicals, it’s much safer to give a little bit more often than to get more amounts less often.

Can you talk a little bit about your alternative vaccine schedule?

This is detailed in the book and it shows parents how to get their (kid’s) vaccines in an alternative way. And because my schedule eventually gets kids vaccinated, you still meet the state requirements. You don’t have to meet the requirements until your child goes to day care or preschool. You can still follow my suggested schedule and meet (government) schedules by the time they need to be met.

Are most pediatricians receptive to an alternative vaccine schedule?

This is the great dilemma. Most pediatricians are not open to providing an open type schedule—yet. They don’t like to change the vaccine schedule that’s clearly been dictated by the medical boards and government. They like to follow the party line that’s been handed down to them.

So I suggest that parents approach the pediatrician, but not at a regular checkup time. If you’re at a regular checkup, they don’t have any extra time and they’re not going to be able to think it through, they’ll just blow you off. I encourage parents to make a separate appointment with their doctor that is only devoted to a vaccine discussion.

The American Academy of Pediatrics actually officially recommends that doctors listen to their patient’s concerns and develop a vaccine schedule that the parent is comfortable with. I think, if pediatricians play hardball with this issue, we’re going to have a lot less vaccinated children. If the pediatricians are willing to meet the patient halfway, we’re going to have better vaccination rates and we won’t start having problems with some of these diseases.

For more information, visit Sears’ Web site at www.TheVaccineBook.com, which also includes a list of pediatricians who will use the alternative vaccination schedule.

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