To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate? (page 2)

To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate?

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Updated on May 14, 2014

That's an issue that Bob Sears, Ph.D., pediatrician and author of The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child, is encouraging parents and physicians to consider. It's not immunizations with which he takes issue-- in fact, he's quick to make clear that he's not only pro-vaccine, but also thinks vaccinations are very important--it's the schedule by which they are given that worries him. His concern is the same that many parents give voice to: Does immunizing young children against multiple diseases at one time increase the potential for vaccination-related complications?

Statistically speaking, it does. With every vaccine your child gets, there's a risk of reaction and while the chances of reactions per vaccine doesn't change, the more vaccines you add per round of immunization, the more risk involved. Simply put, if you vaccinate a child against polio, Hep B and rubella on the same day, he runs the slight possibility of having a reaction to any of the three shots. If you only vaccinate him against polio, then he can only have a reaction to the polio vaccine.

Unfortunately, the recommended (and most frequently followed) schedule of immunizations doesn't give parents a whole lot of wiggle room to decrease these risks, nor are all doctors willing to make adjustments for individual children. This puts many parents in a tough position.  Sevaste Spaker, co-founder of the website Know Vaccines, lost her daughter to vaccine-induced Hodgkin's disease, which developed after an MMR booster shot.  She believes parents need to make educated decisions about vaccinations, which requires them to know all the risks before making a choice. "Choice  is  the  key component  of  vaccines," says Spaker,  "and  choice  can  be  achieved  through  education."  But is that choice simply to vaccinate or not?

Not according to Sears. "I think there's a safer way to do it and I think by spreading out the vaccines you can avoid a lot of the possible complications," says Sears. "Right now there's a battle going on between parents who want that option and doctors who are not willing to provide that option. Such parents, in many cases, are going un-vaccinated because the doctor isn't open to vaccinating them in a different manner."

With all of this debate, why vaccinate at all? Haven't most of the diseases against which we immunize been all but eradicated in developed countries? Maybe so, but it won't stay that way if the rate of immunization continues to plummet. Sears points to recent outbreaks of mumps and measles among college students as reminder that immunity doesn't alast forever.

The vaccination debate will continue to rage because there are no easy answers.  The best you can do is inform yourself, don't be afraid to ask questions and remember, the only side you need to take is the one that's best for your child.

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