Alternative Vaccine Schedules Are A Terrible Idea – Scary Mommy

Alternative Vaccine Schedules Are A Terrible Idea

Image via Shutterstock

Dr. Bob Sears made alternative vaccine schedules popular, and is currently in hot water

The idea of injecting our infants with anything is terrifying to all parents. Let’s just get that straight. You don’t need to be an anti-vaxxer to be made nervous by the thought of a needle going into your child’s body and dispensing an immunization. We’re parents. We worry. That’s where doctors come in.

We are not doctors. We look to doctors to reassure us, to help us feel good about the decisions we’re making for our children. And our pediatricians should be well versed in the recommendations that come from numerous and extensive studies. If a doctor is advising against those studies, what gives? That’s the question many have had for Dr. Bob Sears — specifically pertaining to his alternative vaccine schedule. And he’s presently in hot water for exempting a two-year-old from all future vaccines, without adequately documented medical reasons. The way Sears approaches vaccines — and medicine — may finally cause him to lose his medical license.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Committee on Infectious Diseases advises the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Collectively, these advisory committees and their parent agencies have the expertise in virology, microbiology, statistics, epidemiology, and pathogenesis necessary to review the studies that inform their recommendations,” says an abstract in the AAP. “Their advice to doctors has served us well; during the past century, vaccines have helped to increase the lifespan of individuals in the United States by ∼30 years, with an excellent record of safety.”

So why go against their advice and recommendations to make alternative schedules for parents that are not CDC approved? Here is the reason Sears gives on his website: “By only giving two vaccines at a time (instead of as many as 6), I decrease the chance of chemical overload from grouping so many vaccines chemicals all together at once. This allows a baby’s body to better detoxify the chemicals one or two at a time.” Huh? Chemical overload? What does that even mean?

It’s been said Sears lends a sympathetic ear to those parents most physicians do not support — the ones who are afraid that vaccines do more harm than good. Dr. Sears does not seem to consider himself anti-vaccination, rather he sees himself as a balance between both sides of the debate. But his alternative schedules are not supportive of public health: they are not CDC approved. He urges his patients to delay vaccines, while at the same time endorsing the importance of herd immunity.

Sears writes in his bestseller, The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child, “Obviously, the more kids who are vaccinated, the better our country is protected and the less likely it is that any child will die from a disease. Some parents, however, aren’t willing to risk the very rare side effects of vaccines, so they choose to skip the shots. Their children benefit from herd immunity… without risking the vaccines themselves. Is this selfish? Perhaps. But as parents you have to decide. … Can we fault parents for putting their own child’s health ahead of the other kids’ around him?” There’s a fundamental flaw in that logic, isn’t there?

He admits herd immunity is necessary, but seems to think his patients can benefit by it, while not contributing to it — because the rest of us responsibly vaccinate our children and actually care about public health.

Nice advice, doc.

About half his patients decide against vaccines altogether. The others follow his “alternative and selective” vaccination schedules, which delay or eliminate certain immunizations. This type of schedule has been proven to be dangerous, because as it turns out — parents are not the best at keeping up with this kind of thing.

“For example he recommends splitting up the MMR into individual shots instead of all on the same day at 12 months,” his website states.  “This might be difficult to do, though, since at the time of this writing it seems pharmaceutic companies are not making single doses of measles, mumps and rubella vaccinations – you might want to check.”

Hey parents! That split up MMR vaccine I’m recommending you get actually isn’t being made! You might want to check! What. The. Hell. Dr. Sears plants a fear of an immunization, and gives an alternate that isn’t even available to most patients. And his alternate vaccine schedule is problematic — for one very obvious reason: the more trips a parent needs to schedule to the pediatrician, the less likely they are to make those visits.

His alternate schedule takes an already full first two years of doctor’s visits and turns it into an almost impossible schedule to meet. “Increasing the number of vaccines, the number of office visits, and the ages at which vaccines are administered will likely decrease immunization rates,” writes Dr. Paul A. Offit for the AAP. “In addition to the logistic problem of requiring so many office visits, Sears’ recommendation might have another negative consequence; [in 2009] outbreaks of measles showed that several children acquired the disease while waiting in their pediatricians’ offices.”

“Sears has made a name for himself by fear-mongering about vaccines while creating and promoting an “alternative vaccination schedule” that skips and/or delays vaccines that are crucial to protecting children from vaccine-preventable illnesses,” writes science journalist  and Forbes contributor Tara Haelle. “The very low immunization rates in Southern California, where Sears practices, have been noted as a contributor to the Disneyland measles outbreak in 2015.”

Currently, Sears is in hot water for recommending a toddler skip all future vaccines without adequately documented medical reasons. “But the charges involve much more than writing a vaccine exemption letter,” writes Haelle.  “According to the accusation, Sears failed to test the same toddler for neurological problems after the child was hit on the head with a hammer and failed to investigate alleged vaccine reactions that, if they did occur, would have been life-threatening. He also prescribed garlic for the child’s ear infection despite there being no evidence of its effectiveness. Such departures from the medical standard of care prompt questions about what other ways Sears might be practicing negligently beyond this complaint.”

Sears made the alternate schedule that many parents tout as “safer.” But where is the evidence of that? “Children do not receive any known benefits from following schedules that delay vaccines,” says the CDC. “Delaying vaccines puts children at known risk of becoming ill with diseases that could have been prevented.”

Maria Guido is the Senior News Editor for Scary Mommy. Her writing has appeared on Time, The Washington Post, Mommyish, and more. You can follow her on Twitter @mariaguido and Facebook.