Due to the recent outbreak of measles the conversation about vaccinations has become a hot topic. There are those for and against. But what about those that would just like to know about the alternatives? Maybe we could create the best of both worlds by addressing our concerns about the ingredients in vaccines and immunizations as well as frequency and amount of them. Are there alternative schedules available to us? Find out what pediatric and parenting expert Dr. Robert Sears has to say on the subject of vaccinations*.
On the subject of swine flu
Dr. Sears, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today. One of the topics I would like to discuss is vaccinations/immunizations. H1N1 or “swine flu” vaccinations were a hot topic, which many had very strong opinions about. I admit that I considered it a new vaccination, untested and was reluctant (ok, I didn’t get it for anyone in my family) to have it administered. What can you tell us about the H1N1 immunizations?
Dr. Sears: First, the idea that the H1N1 immunization is a “new” product is actually incorrect. It is not really new, but uses the same processes and ingredients for flu that have been used for years, while incorporating the “swine flu” strain. Right now, swine flu is on a decline so there is not much reason to have the vaccination, however if there is an alert parents can reconsider whether they want to have this immunization for their children or their own health knowing it’s not “new.”
Flu vaccine and pregnancy
What about pregnant women? I know when I was pregnant my OB/GYN recommended that I didn’t have the flu vaccine unless I was in a high risk group.
Dr. Sears: Expecting mothers should note that flu vaccines contain mercury, and most doctors will recommend that pregnant women avoid this chemical. I personally am not a big fan of mercury in any form, and strongly encourage expecting moms to request a mercury free dosage if they are considering the flu vaccine. There are limited quantities available; you can also request them for your children. You should absolutely avoid flu vaccines containing mercury for your infants.
Do you have any predictions about flu vaccinations or any other vaccinations in the future?
Dr. Sears: I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the H1N1 vaccination is combined with the regular flu vaccination in years to come. I also am hopeful that many more doses are available so that those who choose to have this immunization can easily get it.
Alternative vaccination schedules
I like my pediatrician, but to be honest, I sometimes have difficulty talking to her about certain topics; immunizations in particular. I want to ask her thoughts on how many, how often and are they necessary or required but feel that I can’t. Do you have any advice to parents on how they can talk to their doctor about these important health care issues?
Dr. Sears: In order to have a really useful discussion with your pediatrician I recommend that you schedule a time to talk. Don’t try to do it during a regular office visit. Ask for a separate appointment without your children if possible. Doctor’s set aside so much time per patient per office visit and like to keep on schedule. They hope that parents come in with decisions made and instructions to give. It is important that parents do their homework before the appointment and bring a suggested schedule to discuss with their pediatrician.
I recently took my daughter for her 4 year old check up and she received 6 immunizations! Not only is it painful and upsetting but since I also have a 21 year old son; I have to wonder are all these vaccinations absolutely necessary?
Dr. Sears: You are correct. When your son was younger there were approximately 12 doses provided to children. Now we are giving children up to 50 doses total on a variety of immunizations. Many of them were not even available 20 years ago.
Are there alternative immunization schedules available? How can we as parents become better informed about our alternatives as well as about doctors willing to accept those alternatives?
Dr. Sears: Parents can start with one of the alternative vaccination schedules available at my website “thevaccinebook.com.” They can also locate “vaccine friendly doctors” near them with a search tool on this website.It’s important when you talk to your doctor that you tell them you want a slowed down immunization schedule. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics doctors are advised to help parents find “a compromise schedule that the parent is willing to accept.”
Are there different types of immunization schedules available?
Dr. Sears: In my book “The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child” there are two schedules available to parents. One is limited, which means giving only those vaccinations that are for life threatening diseases. It focuses on the most important vaccinations in a way that can better serve that families needs and choices. The other provides parents with an alternative schedule stretching out immunizations over the course of a period of time.Parents aren’t limited to these two schedules but they are a good starting point to determining what is best for their children.
Thank you again for your advice and resources. I know I am going to be visiting the book soon to examine the alternative vaccination schedule in more detail. The best advice I received today was to schedule some time with the pediatrician outside of the regular office visit. It may cost me more, but in the end it’s worth it. Thank you.
*This is a reprint of the interview conducted with Dr. Sears in 2010.