Today the American Academy of Pediatrics reported on a study (seventh story from the top) — Washington State Pediatricians’ Attitudes towards Alternative Childhood Immunization Schedules — which appears in the December 2011 issue of Pediatrics, the organization’s journal.
The study asked 209 Washington State pediatricians about their overall willingness and “comfort” to use an alternative immunization schedule, something I believe in myself. The results were fairly surprising, at least for me. Almost two out of three (61 percent) of the doctors surveyed said they would be comfortable using an alternative schedule if parents specifically requested one. That’s welcome news, and news that should be out there: It’s okay to question or delay vaccines as long as you know the risks and benefits upfront.
I have three problems with the current vaccine schedule. First, kids are given a lot of vaccines starting at a very young age — birth for most. Second, most of the vaccines that doctors stick into kids are not required by law for entry into school. Finally, I think we’re vaccinating against diseases that — for those with healthy immune systems — aren’t going to hurt kids should they get them. In fact, I believe that kids should get sick sometimes. It’s good for the immune system.
As to the first issue: How is it that a minutes-old baby needs a Hepatitis B shot if its mother does not have the disease? Sure, I know doctors will say that the mother could have contracted the disease between the beginning of her pregnancy when she is tested for Hep B and the time she gives birth, but how likely is it really? The next set of recommended shots — and I do mean “set” since it’s FIVE shots — comes at two-months-old. At that time, doctors can give, based on the AAP’s recommendation, shots for rotavirus, haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine (Hib), pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), polio, and a combined shot of diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis vaccine (DTaP). So basically seven different shots at one time. For a two-month-old. Two months later you get the same shots again. At six months, you’re looking at another rotavirus shot, another Hep B shot, DTaP, Hib, PVC, polio, and possibly a flu vaccine. All told, the kid’s had 19 shots and a cocktail of more than nine diseases injected into his or her system before they can barely sit up. And here’s the rub: Many of those shots are not required for school, and the AAP’s schedule calls for 15 more vaccines before the age of 6.
Here in New York kids need three doses of diphtheria, three doses of tetanus, three doses of polio, two dose of measles, one each of mumps and rubella, three doses of Hep B, and one dose of chicken pox. (No Hib or PCV, I might add!) By kindergarten. Kindergarten. Not by six-months-old. By kindergarten. Here’s the link to the AAP’s recommendations and the link to New York State’s requirements so you can check out the disparities.
This makes me ask the question: why? Why so many vaccines so young for kids with healthy immune systems? Of course, I am not a doctor. I’m just an educated, concerned parent who makes my own decisions. From my research I know that there are plenty of parents out there who are making their own decisions, too. Parents who say no to Hep B shots for babies. Parents who decide to wait six months between shots and keep the number of shots given in a single day to one or two. Parents who skip the shots that aren’t required by law. There are even people who choose not to vaccinate at all.
So what’s your take on this? I have a final FYI for those considering delaying: If you do delay, you might be interested to know that the AAP study also found that the doctors surveyed said there were three shots that they would not delay: Hib, PCV, and DTaP. My girls never got Hib or PCV, and I do not regret my decision.
Vaccines are a tough and loaded topic these days, so I will ask both sides of the debate and those who are in the middle to please speak respectfully to each other if you do choose to post here. Thanks.