When my kids were little, docs were so hostile to parents questioning vaccine safety that many would tell parents to find another physician if they even wanted to consider alternative vaccination schedules. The only pertussis vaccine was whole cell. Live polio vaccine was primarily used. We were told these were safe. We now know that whole cell pertussis is associated with seizures and neurologic problems, and that live polio can lead to polio infection in those vaccinated and close contacts. We now know that the thimerosol (a vaccine preservative) our kids were getting is completely unsafe. The initial rotavirus vaccine – well, it was a small disaster. Needless to say, the science of vaccinations continues to evolve, and with it, what we are told or know is safe also evolves. It is no wonder that parents are concerned.
One strategy that some parents believe mitigates potential adverse vaccine effects is alternative vaccines schedules, delaying the administration of some shots, reducing the number of shots in any single doctor’s appointment – and sometimes foregoing certain vaccinations, for example, varicella (chicken pox).
Some parents have found understanding, or at least tolerant, pediatricians and family doctors willing to support them in using an alternative vaccination schedule while other parents have been told to take their business elsewhere if they don’t want to vaccinate conventionally. Worse yet, some parents have found themselves accused of being child abusers for even suggesting an alternative schedule.
A recent study suggests that tides might be changing amongst pediatricians and their attitudes toward alternative immunization schedules. Amongst 311 pediatricians completing the survey, 61% reported said they were comfortable using an “alternative childhood immunization schedule” (ACIS). Private docs were more likely to be comfortable than those in community clinic type settings, though 95% of all of the pediatricians surveyed said that they would use the conventional vaccine schedule for their own kids. The survey was in Washington state, and may not be generally representative, but it was published in Pediatrics suggesting it is a topic that many physicians treating kids are interested in. And the good news is that the conversation is happening. If you are considering an ACIS for your kids, this article might be a good resource to share with your kids’ doctor. Other sensible resources include my book, Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parent’s Guild, and Dr Sears’ The Vaccine Book.
Here’s a link to the Pediatrics article:
Wightman A et al. Washington State Pediatricians’ Attitudes Toward Alternative Childhood Immunization Schedules