I’ve found that doctors generally don’t like to be questioned. And it would be easier if I could just unquestioningly follow their advice, but over the years I’ve discovered that I am the best advocate for my health and my child’s health. For example, a doctor once tried to prescribe me an anti-malaria medication that included psychosis as a potential side effect — and then belittled me when I asked him to instead prescribe me a different medication that had only minor side effects. Or, when I told my ob/gyn that I didn’t want to be induced (unless absolutely necessary) because Pitocin is known to cause more painful contractions — he blatantly lied to me and said that wasn’t true.
That being said, I would have gone ahead and vaccinated my daughter on the regular schedule, but my husband and I took a newborn care class where some parents were raising questions about vaccinations. For example, why is the Hep B vaccine given to all newborns? Babies need it if mom is Hep B positive, and it’s a good idea if any other close family is Hep B positive, but it’s a fairly rare, bloodborne disease. Our newborn care teacher recommended The Vaccine Book by Dr. Sears for more information on vaccines.
I ended up following Dr. Sears suggested alternative vaccine schedule, with a few variations. I felt more comfortable with this than the recommended schedule because it spaces out the vaccines, so my daughter didn’t have to get as many shots at once. I was concerned that giving her so many shots at one time might be hard on her immune system. The official CDC schedule gives a 2-month-old 6 vaccines in one visit.
Here are the first few months of the Dr. Sears Alternative Schedule:
2 months (well-child visit) DTaP, Rotavirus
3 months (shot-only visit) Pc, HIB
4 months (well-child) DTaP, Rotavirus
5 months (shot-only) Pc, HIB
6 months (well) DTaP, Rotavirus
7 months (shot) Pc, HIB
Some challenges I found with the alternative vaccination schedule are that:
It’s confusing. You will have to tell the pediatrician which shots you want at each visit. You have to know the schedule you are following and advocate for it. If you’re not paying close attention, your child may end up missing some vaccines for longer than you’d planned.
It’s time-consuming. Breaking the vaccine schedule up means more visits to the doctor. I took my daughter to the pediatrician once a month for shots for her first 7 months.
Some doctors really don’t like it. I chose a pediatrician who was comfortable with an alternative schedule, and he even suggested delaying MMR further until my daughter’s immune system was more mature. However some pediatricians are unwilling to deter from the official vaccine schedule.
So, will I follow an alternative vaccine schedule with our next child? Probably. Here’s why:
It feels safer to me.* I do realize that most children follow the official schedule without ramifications. I also think that if I were a doctor or public health official I would advocate for people to follow the official schedule. It’s in the best interest of public health for vaccination rates to be as high as possible — and the easiest way for that to happen is for people to follow the official vaccine schedule. But I don’t want to take risks with my child. So for me that means making sure she gets all the required vaccines, yet spacing them out. One of my reasons for being extra cautious is that I have a lot of allergies, some of them life-threatening, which means my daughter has a higher chance of developing allergies. She might be at a higher risk of having an allergic reaction to a vaccine, or perhaps too many vaccines at once might mess with her immune system and increase her risk of allergies. Who knows? I think the immune system is pretty complicated and we don’t understand it very well.
I also know that the vaccine-autism link is basically considered an urban legend by many. But after reading the Dr. Sears book, he says there have been court cases where families received settlements after evidence was found that a vaccination did trigger autism in their child. The catch? They were not allowed to use the word “autism.” I also have a close friend whose brother has autism — and the family has always been convinced that it was triggered by a vaccine.
If you want more information on alternative vaccine schedules, I recommend reading The Vaccine Book and talking with your child’s pediatrician. We did make some changes to Dr. Sears Alternative Schedule, such as delaying MMR further and giving Hep A much sooner.
*Please don’t sue me, this is just my opinion. The CDC and most pediatricians will tell you that the official vaccine schedule is perfectly safe.
Have you followed an alternative vaccine schedule with your child? Would you do the same again?