Tag: alternative vaccine schedules

The Unvaccinated Child

We know that your unvaccinated child is not healthier than vaccinated children.

And we know that among pediatric flu deaths, most are unvaccinated.

What else do we know about unvaccinated children?

Who’s Who Among Unvaccinated Children

Many children with cancer and other medical conditions benefit from herd immunity.
Many children with cancer and other medical conditions have medical exemptions to getting vaccinated and benefit from herd immunity. (CC BY 2.0)

Although it seems like unvaccinated kids all get grouped together, it is important to remember that not all unvaccinated kids are intentionally unvaccinated.

Some are too young to be vaccinated or fully vaccinated, some have medical exemptions, usually to just one or a few vaccines, and sometimes just temporary, and some have skipped or delayed one or more vaccines because of a lack of access to health care.

Whatever the reason, they are all at risk because they are unvaccinated.

The intentionally unvaccinated child poses the bigger risk though, because they tend to cluster together and are more likely to be either completely unvaccinated or to have skipped multiple vaccines. A child with a medical exemption because she is getting chemotherapy, on the other hand, very likely lives with a family who is completely vaccinated and protected. Similarly, a child with an allergy to a vaccine likely isn’t missing multiple vaccines.

Risks to the Unvaccinated Child

Of course, the main risk to the unvaccinated child is that they will get a potentially life-threatening vaccine-preventable disease.

While many vaccine-preventable diseases are no longer endemic in the United States and other developed countries, they have not been eradicated.

People do still get vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States.

And tragically, people do still die of vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States.

Can’t you just hide in the herd, depending on everyone else to be vaccinated and protected to keep these diseases away from your unvaccinated child? While that ends up being what happens most of the time, as there are no real alternatives to getting vaccinated, that strategy doesn’t always work. And it is a gamble that’s not worth taking and won’t keep working if more parents skip or delay getting their kids vaccinated.

Risks of the Unvaccinated Child to Everyone Else

Unvaccinated kids are also a risk to those around them, as they are more likely to get sick with a vaccine-preventable disease, since they have no immunity. No, they are not an instant danger if they don’t actually have a vaccine-preventable disease, but since you can be contagious a few days before you have symptoms, you are not always going to know when your child is sick and a risk to others.

Why does that matter if everyone else is vaccinated and immune?

Well, obviously, everyone else is not vaccinated and immune, including those with medical exemptions and those who are too young to be vaccinated. And since vaccines aren’t perfect, some people who are vaccinated can still get sick.

That’s why it is critical that if your unvaccinated child is sick or was exposed to someone who is sick, you are sure to:

  • notify health professionals about your child’s immunization status before seeking medical attention, as they will likely want to take precautions to keep you from exposing others to very contagious diseases like measles, mumps, and pertussis
  • follow all appropriate quarantine procedures that may have been recommended, which often extends up to 21 days after the last time you were exposed to someone with a vaccine-preventable disease
  • seek medical attention, as these are not mild diseases and they can indeed be life-threatening, even in this age of modern medicine

Hopefully you will think about all of these risks before your unvaccinated child has a chance to sick.

Getting Your Unvaccinated Child Caught Up

Fortunately, many unvaccinated kids do eventually get caught up on their vaccines.

It may be that they had a medical exemption that was just temporary and they are now cleared to get fully vaccinated.

Or they might have had parents who were following a non-standard, parent-selected, delayed protection vaccine schedule, but they have now decided to get caught up to attend daycare or school.

Others get over their fears as they get further educated about vaccines and vaccine myths and decide to get caught up and protected.

Is it ever too late to get vaccinated?

Actually it is.

In addition to the fact that your child might have already gotten sick with a particular vaccine preventable diseases, some vaccines are only given to younger kids.

For example, you have to be less than 15 weeks old to start the rotavirus vaccine. And you should get your final dose before 8 months. That means that if you decide to start catching up your fully unvaccinated infant at 9 months, then you won’t be able to get him vaccinated and protected against rotavirus disease. Similarly, Hib vaccine isn’t usually given to kids who are aged 5 years or older and Prevnar to kids who are aged 6 years or older, unless they are in a  high risk group.

Still, you will be able to get most vaccines. And using combination vaccines, you should be able to decrease the number of individual shots your child needs to get caught up. An accelerated schedule using minimum age intervals is also available if you need to get caught up quickly.

You should especially think about getting quickly caught up if there is an outbreak in your area or if you are thinking about traveling out of the country, as many vaccine-preventable diseases are still endemic in other parts of the world.

What to Know About The Unvaccinated Child

The main things to understand about the unvaccinated child is that they aren’t healthier than other kids, are just at more risk for getting a vaccine preventable disease, and should get caught up on their vaccines as soon as possible.

More on The Unvaccinated Child

Do Pediatricians Vaccinate Their Own Kids?

The American Academy of Pediatrics, an organization of 66,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists, has long advocated for the health and safety of our children.

“Pediatricians who routinely recommend limiting the numbers of vaccines administered at a single visit such that vaccines are administered late are providing care that deviates from the standard evidence-based schedule recommended by these bodies.”

American Academy of Pediatricians

Their advice to keep kids safe and healthy includes that all children, unless they have a medical exemption, be fully vaccinated on time and on schedule.

Do Pediatricians Vaccinate Their Own Kids?

Does that mean that all pediatricians vaccinate their kids on time and on schedule?

Not surprisingly, it does not.

There are enough vaccine friendly and holistic pediatricians out there that push non-standard, parent-selected, delayed protection vaccine schedules that you would expect some of them to leave their own kids unvaccinated and unprotected.

Not that many though.

Most pediatricians vaccinate their own kids.

Pediatricians Vaccinate Their Own Kids

One study, How Do Physicians Immunize Their Own Children? Differences Among Pediatricians and Nonpediatricians, found that “Ninety-three percent of the surveyed physicians agree with the current official vaccination recommendations and would apply them to their own children.”

Rotavirus vaccines are associated with a very small risk of intussusception, but that is not a good reason to miss the benefits of this vaccine.
This pediatrician’s kids are all fully vaccinated. Photo by Vincent Iannelli, MD

The numbers were even higher for some vaccines, like diphtheria (100%), tetanus (100%), pertussis (98.7%), polio (99.2%), measles (97.4%), mumps (95.2%), and rubella (95.7%). It was lower for those vaccines that were newer to the schedule (the study was in Switzerland in 2005), like Hib and hepatitis B.

Up to about 29% of the pediatricians gave their own kids vaccines that weren’t even on the routine schedule in Switzerland yet, including hepatitis A, flu, Prevnar, and the chicken pox vaccine.

Another study, Vaccination practices among physicians and their children, came to similar conclusions. At least 95% of pediatricians said that they followed the recommendations of the ACIP, and the “over-all rates for individual vaccines were considerably high ranging from 97% to 100%.”

That’s right! At least 99% of pediatricians said that they would give their child the MMR, Varicella, Menactra, flu, and Gardasil vaccines.

An even higher percentage would give hepatitis B, polio, Prevnar, Hib, and DTaP!

Fewer would give rotavirus (94%) and hepatitis A (98%) to their own kids, which is not that surprising, as those are among the newest vaccines.

It is a myth that a large number of pediatricians don’t vaccinate their own kids.

What to Know About How Pediatricians Vaccinating Their Own Kids

Almost all pediatricians vaccinate and protect their own kids with all of the recommended vaccines on the CDC immunization schedule.

More on How Pediatricians Vaccinate Their Own Kids

The Moral Responsibility of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

It shouldn’t be surprising that talk of morality comes up around the issue of vaccines from time to time.

“Scientists and clinicians confront moral and ethical choices daily and often observe a religious faith that helps guide their own personal conduct. Indeed, the religious beliefs of countless historical and contemporary researchers and clinicians have been a source of motivation to help relieve human suffering by means of immunization.”

Grabenstein on What the World’s religions teach, applied to vaccines and immune globulins

It is most often because some vaccines do have a “distant historical association with abortion.”

Even then, the National Catholic Bioethics Center states that:

One is morally free to use the vaccine regardless of its historical association with abortion. The reason is that the risk to public health, if one chooses not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concern about the origins of the vaccine. This is especially important for parents, who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them.

That seems pretty easy to interpret.

They are saying we are both “morally free” to use these vaccines and that we “have a moral obligation” to get vaccinated.

What about those parents who feel like they shouldn’t have to vaccinate their kids, exposing them to the risks of vaccines, simply to “protect the herd?”

“Putting aside arguments about social good, herd immunity, discouraging free loading and preventing harm to others, vaccinating a child for the child’s sake is not just the right thing to do, but also the only thing to do.”

Ogbogu on Vaccines and the Ethics of Parental Choice

They should understand that:

  • they aren’t vaccinating their kids just to protect levels of herd immunity in the community – they are also providing their own kids with individual levels of immunity and protection, so it is not just about preventing harm to others
  • vaccines are safe, so the risks of getting vaccinated are very low
  • by intentionally not vaccinating their own kids, they are free-riding and benefiting from the fact that most of the rest of us do get vaccinated and do vaccinate our kids

And they should understand that there is no ethical way to defend intentionally skipping or delaying their child’s vaccines, which puts kids who can’t be vaccinated at risk.

“The society of the 21st century, just as many societies and cultures in the history of human civilization, use religion as an excuse for wars, discrimination, and now for vaccination refusal.”

Pelčić on Religious exception for vaccination or religious excuses for avoiding vaccination

Although a few folks haven’t gotten the message, and may even lie to get a fake religious vaccine exemption, most others see it the same way.

“Giving children a healthy start in life, no matter where they are born or the circumstances of their birth, is the moral obligation of every one of us. It is heartbreaking to think that three million children die each year from diseases that we can prevent.”

Nelson Mandela (2002 Vaccine Conference)

Most parents vaccinate their kids because they understand that vaccines are safe, vaccines work, and vaccines are necessary, just as they likely also understand that there is a moral obligation to vaccinate.

“The argument relating to public goods can be added to the harm-to-others arguments. Where a public good, such as herd protection, exists we must take care not to damage it. The need to create and maintain such a good provides an additional reason, should one be needed, to argue in favour of a moral obligation for the traveller to be vaccinated in advance for infectious disease.”

Dawson on What are the moral obligations of the traveller in relation to vaccination?

And if there is a moral obligation to get vaccinated, then what does that say about those who push propaganda that scares parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids?

“The anti-vaccine argument is wrong in both the scientific and moral sense.”

Sarah Kurchak on Here’s How the Anti-Vaccination Movement Hurts Autistic People

Dr. Vytenis Andriukaitis, the EU Health Commissioner, is the latest to call out those in anti-vaccination movements, who he says have the “moral responsibility” for the death of unvaccinated children.

“I would like to draw attention to the fact that all these movements, which use different arguments, do not understand what they are doing. It would be a shame if the families belonging to this movement were to bury their children, as happened this year in the Member States where children have died of measles.

I would like to invite those who are against the vaccines to visit families, to visit the tombs of the children of those families, and to think what they are doing. I would like to invite all these anti-aging movements to visit the European cemeteries of the nineteenth century, of the eighteenth century, beginning of the twentieth century: they will find many tombs of small children, because there were no vaccines.”

Vytenis Andriukaitis, MD (translated from Italian)

Dr. William Osler's vaccine challenge in his 1911 essay Man's Redemption of Man.
Dr. William Osler’s vaccine challenge in his 1911 essay Man’s Redemption of Man.

This brings to mind another challenge that was made to anti-vaccine activists just over one hundred years ago by Dr. William Osler in his essay Man’s Redemption of Man.

Dr. Osler jokingly proposed a small vaccinated vs unvaccinated study and challenged ten unvaccinated people, including “three anti-vaccination doctors, if they could be found,” to join him in the “next severe epidemic.”

Tragically, Dr. Osler wouldn’t have a hard time finding three anti-vaccination doctors today.

He would have an easy time recognizing their arguments, as they really haven’t changed over the past 100 years.

Neither is the fact that kids are still dying of diseases that are now vaccine-preventable.

What to Know About the Moral Responsibility of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

Many people believe that we have a moral responsibility to protect ourselves, our families, and those around us from vaccine-preventable diseases by getting vaccinated and it is immoral to push misinformation that scares parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

More on the Moral Responsibility of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

Alternatives to Getting Vaccinated

Are there any alternatives to getting vaccinated?

Sure. You can read about them all day long from holistic “experts” and on anti-vaccine websites.

Are there any good alternatives to getting vaccinated?

No. At least not if you want to be truly protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Alternatives to Getting Vaccinated

Kids who are born with immune disorders don't have to live in isolation bubbles any more, but they still need protection.
Kids who are born with immune disorders don’t have to live in isolation bubbles any more, but they still need protection. Photo by Baylor College of Medicine

Unfortunately, some folks don’t have other options and they need to look at an alternative for protection from vaccine-preventable diseases that doesn’t include vaccines.

These are the folks with contraindications or true medical exemptions for vaccines.

What do they do?

It depends on the specific circumstances, but in most cases, except for live vaccines or any other specific vaccine that is contraindicated, they usually get vaccinated.

Extremely few people can’t get at least some, if not most, of their vaccines, even if they do have contraindications to some others. And many exemptions are temporary.

“Parents need to balance the need of the immunoreconstituted child (post-transplant SCID) to be protected from exposure to infection from live vaccines and close contact–transmitted vaccine-derived infection with the need of the child to integrate into society and develop social and learning skills in group environments.”

Medical Advisory Committee of the Immune Deficiency Foundation

They also try to avoid people who are sick and  try to make sure that everyone around them is vaccinated to help maintain herd immunity levels of protection.

Neither is always possible though.

Post-Exposure Prophylaxis

Post-exposure prophylaxis is another option that is available to help prevent some vaccine-preventable diseases. For example, if your unvaccinated child is exposed to measles, they can often receive immune globulin to help them avoid getting measles.

Regimens for post-exposure prophylaxis are also available for:

  • chicken pox – varicella zoster immune globulin or immune globulin
  • diphtheria – antibiotics
  • hepatitis A – immune globulin
  • hepatitis B – hepatitis B immune globulin
  • influenza – oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir
  • meningococcal disease – antibiotics
  • pertussis – antibiotics
  • rabies – rabies immune globulin
  • tetanus – tetanus immune globulin

When possible, immunization typically accompanies these post-exposure prophylaxis regimens.

There is one big problem with these types of post-exposure prophylaxis regimens though. You are not always going to know when your child is exposed to someone else with a vaccine-preventable disease. While some exposures might be obvious, like if your child steps on a rusty nail or is bitten by an unvaccinated dog who has rabies, you might miss some others.

Bogus Alternatives to Getting Vaccinated

What other alternatives to getting vaccinated are out there?

Unfortunately, there are none that work.

Many bogus alternatives to getting vaccinated are pushed by those opposed to vaccines as ways to boost your immunity, and they can include:

  • breastfeeding – while breastfeeding is great and always encouraged, the passive immunity it provides will not protect your baby from most vaccine-preventable diseases, as it contains IgA antibodies, not the IgG antibodies you would need to prevent diseases like measles, tetanus, chicken pox, and Hib, etc.
  • homeopathic vaccines – nosodes are homeopathic vaccines that have been diluted so much that they are supposed to retain a memory of the original substance. Even if they did – that’s not how immunology works.
  • herbs – neither echinacea, goldenseal root, nor elderberry syrup is going to boost your child’s immunity
  • vitamins – unless your child is severely vitamin deficient, taking vitamins isn’t going to boost their immunity, whether they are taking extra vitamin C or extra vitamin D
  • foods – Japanese mushrooms, kale, broccoli, lettuce, cabbage, avocados, ginger, black currants, graviola, green veggies, onion seeds, and berries might all be great to eat, but they aren’t going to boost your immunity
  • probiotics – they may help prevent antibiotic associated diarrhea, but there is not much evidence that taking them regularly does anything else
  • essential oils – they sometimes smell nice, but they aren’t going to boost your child’s immune system
  • chiropractic adjustments – not going to work
  • sun exposure – in addition to the worries about skin cancer, not only does extra sun exposure not boost your immune system, the WHO reports that “Several studies have demonstrated that exposure to environmental levels of UV radiation alters the activity and distribution of some of the cells responsible for triggering immune responses in humans. Consequently, sun exposure may enhance the risk of infection with viral, bacterial, parasitic or fungal infections, which has been demonstrated in a variety of animal models.”
  • fermented cod liver oil – this is not going to boost your child’s immune system, but folks should also know that there have been reports that the products that people have been buying and using for years were rancid and actually making them sick! There are much better ways to get vitamin D and vitamin A in your diet than taking fermented cod liver oil each day.

What about natural immunity?

While natural immunity can in some ways be more effective than vaccine induced immunity, it often comes at a price. You have to recover from the disease, hopefully without any long term consequences, to develop natural immunity.

What to Know About Alternatives to Getting Vaccinated

People who truly can’t be vaccinated rely on herd immunity, because in most cases, there are no effective alternatives for vaccines.

More On Alternatives to Getting Vaccinated

But If It Wasn’t the Vaccines…

Do you know why some folks still think vaccines are associated with autism?

It is simply because we can’t tell them what does cause autism.

“In the absence of a specific etiology for ASDs, and a tendency among parents of children with a disability to feel a strong sense of guilt, it is not surprising that parents attempt to form their own explanations for the disorder in order to cope with the diagnosis.”

Mercer et al on Parental perspectives on the causes of an autism spectrum disorder in their children

So if we don’t have another answer – then it must be vaccines.

That helps explain a lot of vaccine injury stories too.

For example, doctors often can’t tell you why your child has allergies, asthma, Celiac disease, diabetes, eczema, multiple sclerosis, POTS, SIDS, or thyroid problems, etc., which makes some people look to the mistaken theory that they were triggered by vaccines.

Of course, the answer isn’t that these are vaccine-induced diseases.

It simply demonstrates the limits of medical technology. Even if we don’t know what does cause many of these diseases, in almost all cases, it has been shown that they are not associated with vaccines.

Limits of 21st Century Medical Technology

Even in the 21st Century, science and medicine don’t have all of the answers.

And sometimes the answers are there, but are misinterpreted.

For example, the National Association of Medical Examiners makes the following distinctions on a medical certificate between manner of death:

  • Natural — “due solely or nearly totally to disease and/or the aging process.”
  • Accident — “there is little or no evidence that the injury or poisoning occurred with intent to harm or cause death. In essence, the fatal outcome was unintentional.”
  • Suicide — “results from an injury or poisoning as a result of an intentional, self-inflicted act committed to do self-harm or cause the death of one’s self.”
  • Homicide — “occurs when death results from…an injury or poisoning or from… a volitional act committed by another person to cause fear, harm, or death. Intent to cause death is a common element but is not required for classification as homicide.”
  • Could not be determined — “used when the information pointing to one manner of death is no more compelling than one or more other competing manners of death when all available information is considered.”
  • Pending investigation — “used when determination of manner depends on further information”

Why is this important to know?

Because many people confuse a natural cause of death as meaning that there was nothing wrong. That’s actually the opposite of what it means! A natural cause of death in a child means that they died because of a disease or condition.

Which disease or condition?

What was the underlying or immediate cause of death in these cases?

Limits and Uncertainty in Medicine

That’s where the limits of modern medicine and modern medical technology come in…

Maybe technology will change the future of healthcare – hopefully for the better, but there are still many things it can’t do.

Sure, we have indexed or mapped the entire human genome, but we still can’t often tell you why your child has a cough or runny nose, has developmental delays, or didn’t make it out of the PICU.

“…finding an underlying diagnosis for many conditions can be a very long and frustrating experience. A diagnosis can take as many as five years, and occasionally may never happen, especially with rare conditions. In addition, some experts say that between 30 to 40 percent of children with special needs do not have an exact diagnosis.”

NIH on Learning About An Undiagnosed Condition in a Child

Everyone wants answers when a child is sick or has unexplained signs and symptoms, especially when a child dies.

Unfortunately, while it may not get talked about often enough, there are many limits to modern medicine. There is often some uncertainty too.

“…when parents perceive greater uncertainty, they perceive less control over their child’s condition.”

Madeo et al on Factors Associated with Perceived Uncertainty among Parents of Children with Undiagnosed Medical Conditions

Just because futuristic medical tools like Tricorders are on the way doesn't mean that we will have all of the answers.
Just because futuristic medical tools like Tricorders are on the way doesn’t mean that we will have all of the answers.

Doctors don’t know everything.

The best doctors are the ones that actually know that they don’t know everything.

But just because they don’t know everything, that doesn’t mean that they don’t know anything.

For example, not knowing what does cause autism doesn’t mean that we don’t know many of the things that aren’t linked to autism.

And it certainly doesn’t mean that you should use this an excuse to blame vaccines or to skip or delay any vaccines. Continuing to try and associate vaccines with autism doesn’t just frighten parents and leave kids unprotected, it hurts autistic families.

What to Know About Uncertainty in Medicine

While there is much uncertainty in modern medicine and doctors don’t have all of the answers, there is no evidence that vaccines are associated with autism.

More on Uncertainty in Medicine

The Vaccine-Friendly Plan Book Review

The Vaccine-Friendly Plan is the latest book about vaccines that claims to offer a “safe and effective approach to immunity and health.”

What’s the problem with it?

In addition to the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any evidence in the book to support that any of its ideas are indeed safe or effective, the book pushes just about every anti-vaccine talking point out there today.

Misinformation in The Vaccine-Friendly Plan

If you want to skip or delay some of your child’s vaccines and are looking for something to help you feel better about your decision, then this is the book for you.

While Dr. Thomas and Jennifer Margulis talk about providing balanced information, it was right after he stated that “I realized we had poisoned a generation of children with a mercury-derived preservative called thimerosal” and then goes on to talk about how kids are overvaccinated.

So much for balanced information…

But Dr. Thomas isn’t just worried about vaccines. He is also worried about Tylenol, that the chemicals in plastics are endocrine disruptors, GMOs, flame retardants, pesticides, fluoride, artificial sweeteners, chemical dyes, and all of the other toxins that other doctors and the CDC supposedly ignore.

What about the “science” that supports his ideas?

Sure, he is quick to cherry pick studies that support the ideas he likes and label them as “important studies” among “a growing body of evidence,” but if the studies don’t, then they are “a handful of poorly designed, anecdotal studies.”

We see a lot of other anti-vaccine propaganda techniques in the book too.

“Giving a quadruple live-virus vaccine to a toddler is a mistake. When a toddler catches an illness naturally, he does not catch all four at once. I have serious concerns about hitting the immune system of a twelve-month-old baby with four live viruses, even though they are weakened.”

Does Dr. Thomas understand how the immune system works or how many different things our immune systems get “hit” with each and every day? Children are exposed to a lot of live, unweakened viruses and other germs every day and fight them off just fine.

Dr. Thomas also routinely downplays the risks of vaccine-preventable diseases (they all seem to be easily treatable in his world), overstates the risks of vaccines (they all seem to be full of horrible poisons in his world), makes heavy use of anecdotes, repeatedly makes it sound like every other pediatrician is doing something wrong, and again, makes full use of anti-vaccine talking points to scare parents:

To see how silly his arguments are, consider that when talking about giving any amount of formula to a baby, he is quick to say that “Cow’s milk is for calves, human milk is for human babies.”

“I also know several strapping young people who drank bottles of raw goat’s milk (instead of store-bought formula) when their breastfeeding mothers needed to be away from them for several hours…”

Raw goat milk is for kids = baby goats. Don't give it to your baby!
Raw goat milk is for kids = baby goats. Don’t give it to your baby! Photo by Shannon McGee (CC BY-SA 2.0)
But what about goat milk?

Is it just for baby goats?

You won’t hear this from Dr. Thomas, but unless your ‘kid’ is a baby goat, don’t give him raw goat milk!

So what’s the take home message about Dr. Thomas and his book?

Despite his frequently using the word science in the book, the only “science” in The Vaccine-Friendly Plan is that it is full of pseudoscience.

You can even see this in his ideas about gluten sensitivity. Why do so many of his patients show a sensitivity to gluten? He uses an IgG food sensitivity test that most experts say is basically worthless.

Making a Case for Getting Vaccinated

Perhaps the only good thing about Dr. Paul Thomas’ book is that he makes some very good cases for why you should vaccinate your kids.

Wait, what?

His introduction starts off with the story of the death of his three-year-old playmate in Africa. Tragically, the child died of measles.

Like many other pediatricians, he also talks about “the miracle that the Hib vaccine was when it was introduced in 1985.”

“Then in 2012 I had about twenty children in my practice with pertussis: eighteen were school age kids, and two were infants. Interestingly, fifteen of the twenty were fully immunized for pertussis, and the other five were from the small group of families in my practice who refuse all vaccines.”

His story about pertussis in his practice is also very interesting, but not for the reason that Dr. Thomas believes.

Consider that most kids are vaccinated, even in Dr. Thomas’ practice, so the fact that 25% of the kids who got pertussis are unvaccinated means a very high attack rate among unvaccinated children. So even with the problems of waning immunity with the pertussis vaccine, you are still much better off to be vaccinated and protected, even if that protection isn’t perfect.

“Since I opened my practice in 2008, not a single child has received the rotavirus vaccine. I refuse to stock it. Yet only one child in seven years has been hospitalized for severe dehydration. The unvaccinated children in my practice either are not getting rotavirus, or the illness is so mild that it requires no intervention.”

And so much for vaccine choice. How can his patients make a decision to get vaccinated if he doesn’t even have the vaccine?!?

But why don’t they get rotavirus? It is not because the vaccine doesn’t work or isn’t necessary. It is actually called being a free-rider or hiding in the herd.

Like most vaccines, the rotavirus vaccine works and helps create community immunity.

The Most Dangerous Advice in The Vaccine-Friendly Plan

Unfortunately, the dangerous advice in this book extends well beyond repeatedly telling parents to “say no thank you” to multiple vaccines and to delay others.

The advice to “decline vaccines” during pregnancy has to be right up there with the most dangerous advice in his book, but you be the judge…

“It depends on the medication, but the short answer is that it’s best to avoid all over the counter and prescription medications during pregnancy.”

Unbelievably, Dr. Thomas really seems to say that pregnant mothers should try to stop their antidepressants because “women respond differently to pregnancy hormones and some who struggle with mental health issues find the high estrogen and progesterone of pregnancy actually improve mood and mental health.”

He also thinks that it is “reasonable” to skip your baby’s vitamin K shot because of “worrisome ingredients,” like polysorbate 80 and aluminum.

“If bilirubin levels remain extremely high – above 20 – for over a week or two, some of the bilirubin can enter the brain, where it can cause permanent brain damage called kernicterus.”

Hopefully most parents are aware that you don’t want to wait “a week or two” to seek treatment if you baby’s jaundice level is above 20.

And hopefully most parents also understand that:

  • the cutoff for fever in newborns is 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, not 100.6°F (38.4°C)
  • co-sleeping and letting your baby sleep on your chest are not safe things to do
  • skipping an evaluation and antibiotics when mom is GBS positive after delivery and she develops a fever (possible chorioamnionitis) is not a safe thing for baby, especially if mom already skipped getting antibiotics during her delivery  – it’s called gambling that the baby won’t develop early-onset invasive group B streptococcal disease. Several studies have found very high numbers of newborns in this situation with positive blood cultures, even though they had no symptoms.
  • if your pediatrician recommends that your child needs treatment for congenital hip dysplasia (which is actually now called Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip), then you should probably listen, instead of hoping it goes away on its own by wearing “your baby on your front or back with his legs splayed.”
  • you shouldn’t put your baby in direct sunlight without sunscreen for ten to fifteen minutes every day
  • there is no need to routinely check your baby’s vitamin D level – just give a supplement if you are exclusively breastfeeding
  • until polio is eradicated, the risk of getting polio is higher than zero and that all of his unvaccinated kids are at risk even if they don’t travel outside the US, like the outbreak among the Amish in 2005
  • children die from meningococcal disease because it is a severe and terrible disease that progresses very quickly, not because “we pediatricians – so quick to intervene in other, unnecessary ways – fail to listen to a worried mother, dismiss her concerns as “hysterical,” and send a sick child home…” In one study, “Most children had only non-specific symptoms in the first 4-6 h, but were close to death by 24 h.”
  • preschoolers do not need to routinely take 2,000IU of vitamin D each day – the current recommendation is 600IU if they are not getting enough from the foods they are eating and drinking and 2,000IU only if they have been diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency
  • about 4,200 women die of cervical cancer in the United States each year, something Dr. Thomas fails to mention when he says that “some strains of HPV can lead to slow-growing, highly treatable cancers.”

Although the whole book is dangerous, these are serious errors that can harm kids, and it is unbelievable that Penguin Random House would publish this book as a Medical/Parenting book. After all, this is the same company that published NeuroTribes!

Conspiracy Theories in The Vaccine-Friendly Plan

No good anti-vaccine book would be complete without some good old conspiracy theories.

Dr. Thomas doesn’t disappoint!

“It took me years to realize something I still wish were not true but which you cannot ignore if you want to have a healthy baby in America today: Our government officials and a handful of well-positioned M.D.’s who advise them have ignored some of the most important peer-reviewed studies and most relevant scientific information about immunity and health, both during pregnancy and throughout infancy.”

Dr. Paul Thomas

What else has he got?

  • the polio vaccines didn’t eliminate polio in the US, instead, it could have been “chlorinating water in public swimming pools” – it wasn’t
  • “severe reactions to the HPV vaccine are actually much more common than parents are being told” – they aren’t, even Diane Harper says the HPV vaccines are safe
  • rotavirus deaths in the pre-vaccine era are “inaccurate and misleading” because they are estimated numbers “based on a retrospective study that looked at morbidity associated with diarrheal disease between 1968 and 1991,” – except that Dr. Thomas looked at the wrong study. The estimates for hospitalizations and deaths in the pre-vaccine era come from a different study that looked at “Hospitalizations and Deaths from Diarrhea and Rotavirus among Children <5 Years of Age in the United States, 1993–2003.” Oops.
  • most flu-like illnesses are not really the flu, which “makes it impossible to distinguish influenza infections from other viruses,” unless you go to his office, where he tests kids for the flu – except that using the influenza-like illness (ILI) case definition has a high positive predictive value during flu season and many doctors and hospitals also do rapid flu testing

Do you really believe that it was the chlorine in swimming pools that eliminated polio in the United States? Or that he has found a magic way to avoid autism by drinking filtered water, avoiding GMOs, eating organic, whole foods, and following a non-standard, parent-selected, delayed protection vaccine schedule?

What to Know About The Vaccine-Friendly Plan

The Vaccine-Friendly Plan is a dangerous book that not only panders to parent’s fears about vaccines, it goes out of its way to increase those fears by pushing misinformation, telling parents to skip and delay vaccines, and giving other unsafe pediatric and parenting advice.

The only reason to pick it up is because you are looking for some confirmation bias to make you feel better about a decision to not vaccinate your child. If you read it because you were on the fence about vaccines, please consider doing a little more research.

More on The Vaccine-Friendly Plan

Nurse Practitioners on Vaccines

Victoria Anderson is a Family Nurse Practitioner who understands and promotes childhood immunizations.
Victoria Anderson is a Family Nurse Practitioner who understands and promotes childhood immunizations.

We know that the great majority of health professionals understand the evidence that vaccines work and that they are safe and necessary.

Most parents too.

Some still haven’t gotten the message though.

From the nurses who refuse to get vaccinated, even though they are routinely around high risk children, to other health care providers who push the idea that it is okay to skip or delay some vaccines, they all put our kids at risk.

Unfortunately, it isn’t just vaccine-friendly pediatricians who are pushing non-standard, parent-selected, delayed protection vaccine schedules and who are leaving kids at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases.

“One would anticipate that this medical advance would be universally embraced by both parents and health care professionals. Sadly, however, the antivaccine movement, fueled by a lack of respect for the evidence and a profound paranoia, remains alive and well. It is not an overstatement to lay the blame for a resurgence of deadly childhood infections, stemming from declining vaccination rates, at the feet of this movement. Nurse practitioners (NP) also bear some degree of the blame. While certainly not scientific, the anecdotal evidence from letters to JNP documents that some proportion of our readers buy into the pseudoscience of the antivaccine movement. Comments have ranged from bafflingly uninformed (“I don’t think there is enough evidence to support widespread immunizations”) to profoundly unethical (“I recommend to my patients that they not vaccinate their children”).”

Laurie Scudder, DNP, NP on The Importance of Vaccinations

They are often joined by one or more vaccine-friendly nurse practitioners…

Nurse Practitioners on Vaccines

Of course, most nurse practitioners support getting kids vaccinated and protected though.

That’s reflected in the position statement of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP):

“NAPNAP supports the prioritization of immunization education for parents, guardians and other caregivers of infants, children, and adolescents. This education must include the most current scientific evidence related to vaccine safety, risk, benefits and current resources available to ensure that parents and caregivers receive adequate information about immunizations. This includes, when necessary, relaying the risk of not immunizing their child and potential devastation that can occur when a child is infected with a vaccine-preventable disease. It is incumbent that a PNP also be aware of misinformation in the public domain and provides the correct information to the public as well as the health care community.”

Fortunately, most NPs do a great job educating parents and getting kids vaccinated.

Not all of them though.

You can still find some pushing classic anti-vaccine propaganda about vaccines being made in China, that vaccines don’t work, that vaccine-preventable diseases aren’t dangerous, and that natural treatments work are safer – including many, like essential oils and vitamins that they will be very happy to sell to you.

“It’s time for NPs to be part of the solution. We must preach the importance of vaccines, and then we must practice what we preach and be appropriately immunized ourselves.”

Laurie Scudder, DNP, NP on The Importance of Vaccinations

Actually, it’s time for everyone to get educated and to be part of the solution!

What To Know About Nurse Practitioners on Vaccines

Like the great majority of other health care providers, most nurse practitioners fully support getting kids vaccinated and protected against vaccine preventable diseases.

More About Nurse Practitioners on Vaccines