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Alternative Vaccine Schedule Criticized

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Tuesday, December 30, 2008 1:43 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, Protecting Your Family, Vaccinations, Children's Health, Influenza


IMAGE SOURCE: The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child, By Dr. Sears

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released new immunization schedules for the upcoming year in the December 29 issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Most notable is the new recommendation for an annual flu vaccine for all children – ages 6 months to 18 years – which follows new guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Also, a second oral rotavirus vaccine has been licensed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

And most of footnotes for individual vaccines have been revised to provide additional information and to clarify recommendations provided in the schedules.

The same issue of Pediatrics also includes an analysis by Dr. Paul Offit that harshly criticizes a popular book that poses an alternative vaccine schedule for infants and toddlers, calling it “flawed and misguided, stating it puts children at considerable risk of preventable diseases.”

Dr. Paul A. Offit, M.D., of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine, tells WebMD, The Vaccine Book: Making the right Decision for Your Child, by the well known Dr. Robert Sears, M.D., contains recommendations at odds with those made by the AAP and is dangerous.

Moreover, the book undermines recommendations made by the CDC and the American Academy of Family Physicians, Offit says.

The book, a bestseller among parents skeptical of vaccines, has persuaded many to change or completely avoid recommended vaccinations for their children, Offit tells WebMD.

Sears’ book gives parents an alternative vaccination ‘schedule’ to protect from diseases once common in kids. For instance, he proposes the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, usually given at once, to be spread out over a few years to keep from overloading children's immune systems. While he writes that he has no research to support that chickenpox vaccines and MMR given at the same time is dangerous, he feels parents should have their children gradually protected against the diseases.

Sears plans to write a rebuttal to Offit’s article in the journal Pediatrics.

“In a sense, I see myself as an ally of the AAP, in that I am finding new ways to encourage parents who would otherwise not vaccinate [their children] to go ahead and vaccinate,” Sears says. “I believe my flexible options will increase the rate of vaccinations. Admittedly, my book is not pro the AAP’s vaccine schedule. My advice differs in the way that vaccines are given, but overall, I agree vaccines are necessary. I offer an alternative for parents afraid of AAP recommendations.”

Sears's rebuttal can be read on his website.

Offit argues that allowing alternative scheduling will reduce the percentage of kids who get fully vaccinated, while Sears contends parents will be driven away from vaccinations completely by inflexible doctors. The CDC advises doctors to work with parents who wish to deviate from the vaccination schedule in an effort to get children as fully immunized as possible.

Deborah Kotz poses the question, "So, which is better: a one-size-fits-all approach or a flexible one?" That’s the question I think we are all hoping the journal editors will now decide to address in a full-fledged debate. #

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