Doctors Debate 'Delayed Vaccine' Schedule

Dr. Peter Hotez, professor and chairman of the department of microbiology and tropical medicine at The George Washington University, said recommending alternative vaccine guidelines to the public without any scientific evidence to support the safety and efficacy of such recommendations "makes no sense."

"Altering the schedule without the support of clinical trial data creates a severe risk for inadequate vaccine," Hotez said. "So, any delayed schedule risks creating a vaccine schedule that won't give you as much of a robust immune response as the recommended schedule."

"I will follow the new CDC recommendations for my children," he added.

But Sears said he believes many vaccine experts are misinterpreting his work as "anti-vaccine," while his intent in offering an alternative vaccine schedule was to show parents who might not otherwise vaccinate their children at all that they can immunize their children in ways with which they may feel more comfortable.

"While Dr. Offit and I share the same opinion on the importance of vaccines, at the end of the day we will have to continue to agree to disagree on one major point: He believes that offering parents the option of an alternative vaccine schedule that spreads out the shots and allows worried parents to vaccinate their babies in a manner they are more comfortable with, will result in lower vaccination rates because it legitimizes these parents' fears about vaccines," Sears said. "I, on the other hand, believe that providing parents who otherwise would not vaccinate at all with a schedule of vaccines that they feel right about for their baby, will encourage such parents to vaccinate."

Dr. Samuel Katz, professor and chair of the department of pediatrics at the Duke University Medical Center, said that Sear's proposed schedule should only be used as an absolute last resort for parents who refuse to vaccinate their child otherwise.

"This might rarely be an exceptional alternative as a last resort, choosing to administer as soon as possible those vaccines for which the infections remain prevalent in the U.S. with most serious morbidity and mortality ... and spacing out [the rest]," said Katz.

However, many vaccine experts maintain that the potential benefits of this alternative vaccine schedule do not outweigh the drawbacks.

Schaffner said that if parents are concerned about the safety of vaccines and the recommended vaccine schedule for their children, the best thing they can do to quell those fears is to educate themselves.

"The way I see it, Dr. Sears has created a solution to a problem that doesn't exist," Schaffner said. "The problem isn't with vaccine safety, because they've been exonerated from all the implications of autism and all the other illnesses associated with vaccines.

"So, the true solution would be confidence in [your] doctor's position and to try to get as much information as possible, and to allow that information to trump your anxiety."

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