“The Vaccine Book” by Dr. Robert Sears

Posted on 09. Oct, 2010 by in Cerise, Parenting


Note: I did not write the article with the intention of stirring controversy.  However, the very nature of the topic tends to be controversial.  I am simply sharing my experiences, opinions and personal journey.  Please feel free to comment.

When I started this blog for Mother Nurture, I said no topic off limits except vaccines.  The topic is simply too controversial.  There is great science supporting the efficacy of vaccines, but concerns individual parents have regarding the injection of diseases and chemicals into their child’s body are also valid.  I have been very surprised at the variety of concerns that parents have about vaccinating their children.  Everything from concerns about autism and other potential side effects to whether the risks outweigh the benefits to vaccinating against a disease that is not prevalent in our country.  I have been surprised that most families who have researched vaccines actually do believe that vaccines are effective and are responsible for eradicating many diseases but when doing the risk/benefit analysis for a healthy child born in the United States may decide that the risks outweigh the benefits.

My personal issue with the vaccine debate is that it is so polarizing.  There is currently a trend for pediatricians to refuse care to children if their parents choose not to vaccinate.  This has always really bothered me.  The number one definitive statement I will not back down from at all is that it is a really bad idea to refuse care to someone because they (or their parents) make a choice that you believe is wrong, unhealthy or even dangerous.  We do not withhold cancer treatment from patients who continue to smoke, it’s just plain unethical!  Unfortunately, these families are forced to choose:  A)  Get the vaccines and feel that their pediatrician is less of a partner and more of a tyrant, or B)  Stand their ground and have no primary medical care for their children.  Also, some parents simply choose to delay or separate vaccines and are often forbidden from doing so and forced into making them same choices despite the fact that they do, in fact, want to vaccinate their child. Can we really fault parents for making decisions that go against the status quo, and recommendations of health professionals when they have the best interest of their child in mind?

My other problem with the vaccine debate is that there seems to be a refusal on the part of most physicians to admit that there are risks to vaccines.  The research seems to support that vaccines are responsible for eradicating many devastating diseases.  They also appear to be fairly harmless.  But, there are, indeed, risks to any medical procedures.  It seems that there is a fear that admitting the risks would cause parents to refuse vaccinations.  Please, give us a little credit.  Indeed, some parents may decide that the risks outweigh the benefits for their child, but does that mean we should refuse informed consent?

So, despite my plans to avoid the vaccine topic, the time came for me to make some decisions about vaccinations for my own children.  And, this journey is what has prompted this blog article.

I always considered myself to be a very unselfish person.  I truly believe that we all have an obligation to support other members of our culture in order to have a truly family-friendly society.  I don’t mind paying taxes, making charitable contributions, volunteering my time and talents.  However, when I became a mom, some of that changed.  Well, that’s not exactly true, it changed when it came to vaccines.  I was shocked to find myself thinking (and I am embarrassed to admit this) that I was not responsible for protecting somebody else’s child with cancer.  I still want to raise my children to be kind, charitable people, but I just couldn’t bring myself to potentially harm their body to protect someone else.  It’s not that I didn’t care about the kid with cancer.  I would do it to myself, but not my children.  I would risk my own life or limbs for another fellow human being, but I would not put my children at risk for anyone else.  Isn’t that my job as a mother?

I am the type of person who never does anything just because of convention.  I always research my decisions.  I had previously read a few other books about vaccines.  At the time, I felt those books were fairly balanced.  And, at the time, I felt that with the information that I had that the potential risks (known or unknown) outweighed the benefits of some of the vaccines.  Take Polio for example.  I was born in 1979.  No, I did not grow up watching people suffer from polio, but I do remember the vaccine scars on my parent’s and grandparent’s arms and I had a school principle who walked with a limp from having polio as a child.  It is an awful, terrible disease and I definitely want to do anything I can to protect my children from it.  Plus, the information I read in what some would consider “anti-vaccine” books made me feel that the vaccine was relatively safe, and it has been around a long time.  So, I’m feeling good about giving my child the polio vaccine.  But then I learn that there has not been a case of wild polio in the United States since 1979 – the year I was born.  There were some cases of polio being contracted from the oral polio vaccine which is no longer used for that very reason.  So, according to the information I had, I could possibly by increasing my child’s risk of getting the terrible polio disease by giving him the vaccine.  What’s a mom to do?????  So, here I was feeling “damned if I do and damned if I don’t.”  My child was in day care, I was feeling overwhelmed with the information and choices so we did the regular recommended

vaccination schedule.  So, kid 1 got all his shots until I quit my job and started the store.  Our doc is really respectful of our decisions and my kids have been really healthy so we rarely have to go.  I just avoided the issue for a while since I was still unsure of what the right choice should be.

Time passed, kid 2 came along and was always with me.  So, again, I avoided the issue.  But, this fall it was time to start Parents Morning Out with him to give us both a break.  So, as the time came for me to make some more decisions for my own children, I decided to pick up “The Vaccine Book” by Robert Sears, MD, FAAP (Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics).  I had several customers and clients of Mother Nurture who had read the book and were interested in his alternative vaccine schedule.  My assumption was that it was a mostly anti-vaccine book but that the alternative schedule was offered as a compromise for parents to offer to their child’s doctor or for parents who found themselves somewhere in the middle.    When I began reading the book, I realized that I was very wrong.  In “The Vaccine Book,” Dr. Sears explains that he does support the standard CDC child immunization schedule for most children.  He also recognizes the concerns that I have heard parents express myself.  He addresses each of those concerns compassionately.  He mostly points out that there is no evidence to support those concerns, but also realizes that that may not be enough to convince all parents that vaccines are the right choice for their child.

I love this book because it supports my belief that the parent is the expert The Vaccine Bookwhen it comes to their child, that families should be respected as a whole and that it is the role of the health care provider to provide quality care that meets the goals of the family.  I was also impressed with how easy the book was to read and how straightforward his approach is.  The other vaccine books I had read seemed to offer a host of scientific evidence that was a little over my head and that I will admit that I am not qualified to evaluate.

I was very excited when I read this book.  I wrote to a pediatrician friend of mine who is very pro-vaccine.  I told her about the book, asked if she had read it and told her that I thought it would be good to recommend to parents who have concerns about vaccines.  I was surprised when she replied that she had read it, didn’t like it and didn’t agree with it because she, and most pediatricians, feel that it causes parents to have unfounded fears about vaccines.  I was especially shocked when she informed me that most pediatricians want Robert Sears removed from the AAP!  This information compelled me to write back to her about my experiences and thoughts and to, ultimately, write this article for everyone else out there.  I am highly concerned about the criticism of Dr. Sears by his colleagues.  My experience in the 4 years I have had Mother Nurture has been that parents already have those concerns.  They turn to the Sears library as a source they can trust.  As proponents of Attachment Parenting, the Sears family has published several books on everything from healthy pregnancy, birth, sleep, discipline and, of course, vaccines.  All of their books support gentle, healthy approaches and the intuitive wisdom of parents when it comes to their child.

I am very lucky to have a very supportive, warm and understanding physician caring for my children.  He supports vaccines 100% but was understanding and respectful of my concerns.  Because he trusted me to make the right decisions for my family, I feel more comfortable putting my faith and trust in him when it comes to the medical care of my children.  So, I made the appointment, got my kids some shots and cried along with them.  It was horrible, but we are all fine now and I feel good about my decision.

My point in writing this blog is not to convince you to vaccinate or not.  My point is to share my personal journey with you and to point out that “The Vaccine Book” is not a tactic to scare parents out of vaccination.  In fact, it took me from feeling like “damned if I do and damned if I don’t” to feeling comfortable about giving my very healthy children vaccines in a manner I think is reasonable.  So, my hope is that physicians will stop trying to give Robert Sears a bad name and adopt his approach of respecting parent concerns and recognizing that the only true expert when it comes to a child is the parent.

Please share your experiences and concerns in the comments.  But, please be respectful of each other in the discussion.  I don’t mind a debate as long as it is respectful.

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15 Responses to ““The Vaccine Book” by Dr. Robert Sears”

  1. sarah elise

    09. Oct, 2010

    I agree Cerise. I had a similar journey. My kids were born in WI. No thimerosol in the vaccines for them, which I made sure. I was definitely concerned, so we did space ours out.
    If I had it to do again, I’d do the same thing…vaccinate but space them out, a la Dr. Sears.

  2. robyn

    09. Oct, 2010

    Thank you for writing this, Cerise. Before Ava was born I told Corey I had heard that immunization was not smart and we needed to read as much as we could before we had the baby. I did lots of reseach but still felt funny about it, not because I didn’t agree with immunizations, but because I felt like other moms would think I was a bad mom for doing it. I was glad that none of the vaccines at our pediatric practice contain thimerosol but that wasn’t even my concern with them! I was more concerned about some of the research that said we are harming our immunities by forcing the body to have this response. In the end, I realized that I did want my children to be able to travel to other coutries where these diseases are rampant without having to either risk major health problems or have to have several shots immediately before travel. I have actually caught quite a bit of flack from others about our choice to vaccinate but I feel good about it… I felt much better when my kids didn’t get pertussis when my niece had it.
    I do wish we had more choices about the vaccine issue, and others in health care for that matter. Thank you for bringing that up. Maybe a blog about a search for a healthcare provider next? I love mine but many out there have had a very difficult search. I understand most of us didn’t go to med school and don’t know why MD’s make the decisions that they do but I certainly wish they would not leave questions unanswered or belitte a parent for asking. Those storeis are just heartbreaking and usually end with, “and now we have no pediatrician.” Maybe everyone would be what they call, “compliant with care” if they would only speak to the patient?

  3. Stacey

    10. Oct, 2010

    Thanks for posting this as it seems to be a topic of concern for many parents. I love Dr. Sears and the Vaccine book. I was actually going to refuse all vaccines until I read his book. Now my 5 mo old receives one shot, every 4 weeks, per the schedule developed with her pediatrician (I did have to switch doctors though). I have a 4 yr old with a rare immune system disorder and who reacted to the MMR right before the disorder surfaced. Obviously I’m concerned with overloading my infant’s immune system. Our old doc wanted to give her 8 shots at her 2 mo check up! That is just insane and cruel. I asked to split them up and she refused. Anyway, there is no need to rush in and get them all especially if your child is breastfed, at home with you, and the disorders aren’t even in the U.S. I used Dr. Sears book to decide which ones were a priority and which ones we could wait on. My baby had a local reaction to the HIB shot but had I given her more than one, I might not know which one caused her so much pain. anyway, thanks for posting this!

  4. Gina

    11. Oct, 2010

    Thanks for the information about the book. I haven’t read it, but have wondered about it. We love Dr. Sears books in general, but I was hesitant about the vaccination book, because I too believed that it was an anti-vaccine book. Now I’ll have to add it to my reading list. Thanks!

  5. Annette

    12. Oct, 2010

    Great article! So many parents make decisions on hear-say and don’t actually do the research to determine what is best for their own family… and not just in regard to vaccines. Knowledge is power!

  6. Hilary

    13. Oct, 2010

    We also really appreciated “What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Children’s Vaccinations” by Dr. Stephanie Cave. It explains a LOT about each vaccine in a non-judgmental way, so it’s a great resource when making those tough decisions.

  7. Megan

    13. Oct, 2010

    As I type this message, I am sitting in my office eating lunch getting ready to finish the second half of my day. I am a pediatrician and a breastfeeding mommy of three healthy beautiful babies that loves children first of all and second is an advocate for vaccines. I wanted to leave a reply to give “our” side of the story. I DO believe that these diseases are deadly since I have experienced several of them first hand in my patients therefore I choose to vaccinate my children. I DO also give my patients families a choice as to their decision regarding vaccinating their children. I DO allow them to make their own schedule for vaccines as long as it is in compliant with the mandatory time lines per the CDC. I have several patients that get shots monthy, bimonthly, every 6mos, and once a year. I am ok with that as long as they get them!! As far as the debate about pediatricians dismissing patients for not vaccinating, that is a shame. Their reasoning is that these diseases still exist, even though their hasn’t been an active case of polio for 20+ years, and if an “unvaccinated” child that is also their patient comes down with a particular disease and then dies, then the family could sue them for malpractice. Yes, I know that most of you are laughing, but folks it’s real. I experience irate parents every day in my practice. I explain at each well baby visit what vaccines are due and what they prevent, but it is ultimately up to them to make the choice. I try not to pursuade them one way or the other, but most of them ask me if I vaccinate mine and the answer is always YES!!
    As far as Dr. Sears, I think he is great and has a lot of great information for familes. I can not comment on this particular book, but plan to read it and see how he approaches this issue. Thanks for the blog and all the comments.

  8. Karla

    13. Oct, 2010

    I read Dr. Sear’s Vaccine Book before my 3rd child was born (2008). LIke Cerise and others who have posted, I went from feeling like I was in a “no win” situation to a compromise with which I felt comfortable for my daughter (his alternative schedule). However, my pediatrician has since stopped offering an alternative vaccine schedule. Since we learned this information very shortly after my fourth child’s birth, we had to decide what to do very quickly. I cried, felt angry, prayed and then asked my pediatrician a lot of questions. (Why did he feel so strongly opposed to the alternative schedule? Couldn’t he trust parents to make their own decision about the vaccines?) He and his partner referred me to the AAP and CDC websites as well as to a few other books I have not read. One of the most helpful articles that I did look over was the AAP’s response to Dr. Sear’s book. It is written by Dr. Offit who I know is controversial himself and yet, while Dr. Sear’s book does provide some “balance,” I couldn’t avoid the realization that there may be some gaps in his recommendations. I decided after reading the article, that the compromise Dr. Sear’s offers made me feel better about the shots, but may not really be a healthier alternative for my children. It was difficult to be confronted by the controversy and difficulty of the vaccination question all over again, but I was so glad to gain new knowledge for myself and my family. I would highly recommend the article.

  9. Ali

    14. Oct, 2010

    I’m in the very midst of this situation – my husband read Dr. Sears’ book, and at our next appointment we told our ped we had some questions. Instead of answering them, he (Dr. Latham) told us we had to stick to the AAP recommended standard schedule or find a new physician. We have UK HMO insurance, and can’t find another doc in the system who is any more flexible. I’m not totally opposed to the standard schedule, but would like a doctor who would have a conversation with us, instead of writing our concerns off completely. And what if we really didn’t want any shots – would we really be without health care? What if it was a religious issue? Does it really come down to the threat of malpractice suits? I’d love to hear from other docs! Megan, are you in Lexington & do you accept UK HMO? :) Does anyone else have recommendations?

  10. Jude

    12. Aug, 2011

    Ali: I feel exactly as you. I met with Dr. Latham and received basically the same. I too live in Lexington and have UK HMO. Can you please let me know what you’ve learned since then and what doctor you ended up choosing?

    Stacey: Who is your pediatrician?

  11. Chris

    03. Sep, 2011

    Hi, I had a very similar experience. This wonderful book by Dr Bob Sears was a godsend to me. I had so many concerns & questions about vaccines. I’m not one to just accept things blindly. This book answered virtually every question I had & was a wonderful reference for me. It also eased many of my vaccine concerns & put things in perspective for me. It ultimately helped me to feel comfortable vaccinating my child (gradually of course). =)

    I also loved his advice/suggestions on how to keep your child healthy if you choose to delay or not to vaccinate at all. That info is still really valuable to me. I took it seriously. I felt he knew what he was talking about. Today I still avoid crowds w/ my 4 year old if I don’t want her to get sick at a certain point in time.

    I found out about a month ago that a friend of mine feels the same as I do about delaying vaccines (she delays as I do) & I never knew it! I never spoke w/ her about it until she brought it because it seemed too controversial to me to bring it up. So now I know I’m truly not alone! Love ya!

  12. Megan

    22. Oct, 2011

    I’ve been following Dr. Sears vaccination schedule for my daughter, and my pediatrician has been so supportive. We’ve come to a crossroads though, because the MMR is no-longer carried separately by my pediatritican. If any of you KY mamas have a pediatrician that carries the MMR in all separate shots I would LOVE contact info! (walkinwalkoutcattle (at) gmail (dot) com

  13. Rachel

    19. Nov, 2011

    My husband and I had UK-HMO and decided to switch to UK-PPO for exactly the reason you are describing. We now have much more choice of doctors, and thus, more choice period. I highly recommend checking with UK HR and asking about changing plans within UK.
    Good Luck!

  14. Dave

    11. Jan, 2012

    I am happy that doctors are finally taking time to address the flaws in Sears’ work. The fact is diseases like polio have re-emerged in some areas of the world because vaccinations were stopped due to fears (in Nigeria, religious (sharia) leaders feared it would cause sterilization). In the States we have types like Michelle Bachmann claiming vaccines cause autism which really galvanized the medical community to take on these scientifically unproven theories. Sears is preying on the fact that parents want what’s best for their kids and tries to straddle a fence that isn’t possible. In medicine the line isn’t mutually exclusive. The division of doctors on this issue is heavily skewed away from Sears view much like the cigarette-cancer connection was in the 1980s.

  15. Nyah

    04. Apr, 2012

    Just today I was told by a pediatrician that if I chose not to vaccinate my daughter that I should not come back! What a bully she was. I believe that a parent has the right to choose, we should not be forced to do something we believe is wrong. I haven’t read this book by Dr. Sears about vaccinating our children, and I probably will after reading the comments posted on this blog.

    In the mean time, does anyone know the name of a pediatrician (here in Lexington) that will see my children and not bully me about choosing not to vaccinate them?

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