Alternative Vaccine Schedule Stirs Debate
Article in Journal Criticizes Popular Book on Timing of Kids' Vaccines
Dec. 29, 2008 -- A popular book that presents an alternative vaccine
schedule for infants and toddlers is flawed, misguided, and puts children at
significant risk of preventable diseases, the journal Pediatrics reports
in a harshly-worded article.
The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child, by the
widely-followed Robert Sears, MD, of Capistrano Beach, Calif., contains
recommendations for vaccines that are at odds with those of the American
Academy of Pediatrics and is dangerous, Paul Offit, MD, of the University of
Pennsylvania's School of Medicine, tells WebMD.
The book also undermines recommendations by the CDC and the American Academy
of Family Physicians, Offit says.
His analysis of the book is published in the latest edition of
Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of
Sears' book, which has become a best seller and is popular among parents
leery of vaccines, has induced many to change vaccine schedules or avoid
recommended vaccinations for their children, Offit tells WebMD.
"What he does is, he capitalizes on the current culture's fear of
vaccines by saying, 'not only do I understand your fear but I will provide you
with a mechanism whereby you can act on that fear,'" Offit says. "His
method is to separate, delay, or withhold some vaccines. That means some
children become more susceptible for a longer time to diseases, and there is no
reason to delay."
Alternative Vaccine Schedule: What Sears Says
Sears' book provides parents with alternative "schedules" for having
children vaccinated to protect them from diseases once common in kids. For
example, he proposes splitting up the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, normally
given all at once, into separate components spread over a few years, to keep
from overloading children's immune systems. Although he writes that he has no
research to show that giving the MMR and chickenpox vaccines at the same time
is dangerous, he feels parents should have their children protected
against the diseases gradually.
Sears tells WebMD that Offit and others have misunderstood his book, and
that he believes in vaccines recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics
(AAP) and other medical organizations. He says he plans to write a rebuttal to
Offit's article for submission to Pediatrics.
"I almost see myself as an ally of the AAP in that I'm finding ways to
encourage parents who otherwise would not vaccinate [their children] to go
ahead and vaccinate," Sears says. "I believe that my options will
actually increase the vaccination rate. My book is admittedly not pro the AAP's
vaccine schedule. My advice does differ in the way vaccines are given, but
ultimately, I agree that vaccines should be given. For parents afraid of the
way AAP says to do it, I give them an alternative."
He says "there is no science that is conclusive enough to show any links
between vaccines and autism" but that his book provides "ways to
vaccinate if you are worried about autism that may decrease the theoretical
link if you believe there is such a link."