When pediatrician Robert W. Sears, MD, wrote The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child, he wanted to give parents more choices on how to vaccinate their children if they were concerned about a vaccine’s side effects or ingredients or the large number of shots that kids get.
“A lot of parents don’t really trust the vaccine system,” Sears says. “I felt that if I could give parents a better understanding of vaccines -- as well as an alternative way to approach giving vaccines -- then these families who otherwise might not vaccinate could go ahead and feel comfortable with vaccinating.”
For more than 30 years, there has been a vaccine that can safely prevent pneumococcal disease, a serious infection caused by a bacterium known as Streptococcus pneumoniae. But the PPSV vaccine (pneumococcal polysaccharide) cannot be used for the part of the population that is most vulnerable to the disease -- children under age 2. Without the protection of a vaccine, infants and very young children are at higher risk for several dangerous infections, including pneumonia and bacterial meningitis.
Sears says he isn't against vaccinations. Instead, his book suggests an untraditional “alternative” schedule that delays shots or spaces them further apart. If parents are skittish about any shots at all, he offers a separate “selective” schedule to encourage them to give their kids at least the "bare minimum" of vaccinations.
But public health officials say that those approaches leave too many kids unprotected for too long and aren’t backed up by science.
“These altered schedules have not been studied at all,” says Meg Fisher, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist in New Jersey. "I would rather stay with what we know is the most likely to protect the most people."
Regular, Alternative, Selective Vaccine Schedules
The regular vaccine schedule for children aged 0-6 is approved by the CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the American Academy of Family Physicians.
The alternative and selective vaccination schedules aren't reviewed or approved by the CDC or other public health group. They come solely from Sears.
Sears’ alternative vaccine schedule spreads the shots out over a longer period of time, up to age 5-6 years. For instance, he recommends not giving kids more than two vaccines at a time. It also changes the order of vaccines, prioritizing what Sears believes are the most crucial vaccines to get, based on how common and severe the diseases are.