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Vaccines: Is the CDC's Shot Schedule Wrong?

As you know, many parents of autistic children are still clinging to the notion that vaccines are at the root of the illness, and that the recent genetic study published in Nature was biased due to a conflict of interest held by one of the researchers.  Let’s for the sake of argument (and science) say that vaccines are not the sole or even partial cause of autism.  Could we still be giving our kids too many vaccines too soon?

According to Newsweek, pediatrician and member of the renowned Sears family, Dr. Robert Sears, “suggests getting fewer shots at each infant checkup and spreading the shots out over a longer period of time.”  But Sears himself says, “Although there is no medical evidence that this precaution is necessary or even useful, some parents… have been skipping the MMR over fear of side effects. Some of these parents are more open to getting the separated vaccines.”  He claims he simply presents giving three separate shots for measles, mumps and rubella as an option “to allow such families to vaccinate for these diseases.”

In other words, it’s better to provide those that are leery about overdosing their kids with the option to spread out the shots because then they’re more likely to immunize than skip the MMR altogether.  That seems sound.  But Newsweek says the Centers for Disease Control will have none of it.  Additionally, Dr. Margaret Fisher, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Section on Infectious Diseases, maintains that infants can handle getting all three shots at once.  “Their immune systems are still developing, yes, but they are capable of handling an influx of daily toxins and bacteria,” she says.  “We feel passionately that children should be immunized on schedule.”

Worried parents’ wishes may be irrelevant here, because according to Sears, as of October 2009, “The official word on Merck’s website is that the (individual) vaccines are not available for order.  They also state that the demand for the separate vaccines is so low that it doesn’t justify its production.”  Sears posits that “as many as 100,000 families search for the separate vaccines each year.”  He says, “That would be a lot of unvaccinated children if these parents refused the full MMR.”

Sears can’t reason why there shouldn’t be three separate M-M-R shots in production, because “the separate rubella vaccine is routinely used for adult women after they have a baby.  If Merck stops making it, such women will have to get the full MMR, even if they still have good measles and mumps immunity.”  He also thinks a solo mumps vaccine is helpful, and cites the 2005-2006 outbreak, when “many teens and adults needed a mumps booster to help contain the disease. If separate mumps vaccine isn’t made available for such events, the full MMR will have to be used. The same would be true if a measles epidemic occurs.”

The Immunization Action Coalition, a group of medical professionals in various fields from across the country, who are openly funded by the pharma industry, including Merck, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur, all makers of an MMR vaccine, are trying to reassure parents that there is a “lack of association between MMR and autism.”  But they suggest that “if a parent still insists on separating the vaccine components, Merck has limited supplies of separate measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine available. It is preferable to administer separate components of MMR rather than not administer any measles, mumps, or rubella vaccines.”

Dr. Sears is outraged that companies aren’t more willing to provide the separate shots some parents clearly want, and says “Part of me wants to rally the nation’s parents in a campaign to insist that Merck begin making the shots again.  Write your Senators, email Merck (politely!), refuse to get the full MMR!  But that just isn’t responsible.  Skipping the shots altogether leaves children at risk, the riskiest disease being measles.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told, “The key to life is taking everything in moderation.”  Why shouldn’t that apply to vaccines?  I’m not here to tell you vaccines are doing our children harm, and I have little-to-no knowledge about medicine or science other than the information I glean from the media.  But I don’t understand that if administering the vaccines separately, the way doctors were in the 60′s, wasn’t harming children, why is it best now to deliver them all at once?  Also, why doesn’t anybody talk about the DPT shot the same way they do about the MMR vaccine?  Has the MMR gotten a bad rap as the scapegoat for autism, or is there something to giving our kids too many shots too soon, even outside the realm of autism?  Is the DPT threesome (Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis) just as potentially problematic as MMR?  Why are children being vaccinated for 14 diseases as of 2009 when they were only being vaccinated for 12 just five years ago?  (The additional shots being against flu (okay) and Rotavirus, which is really only a problem in third world countries.)

I don’t have the answers.  But maybe the CDC and AAP should start a real dialogue with parents and acknowledge their concerns rather than just shutting them down with a blanket statement that says, at heart, just do what we tell you and don’t ask questions.  I understand that scientists want to be able to move away from vaccines being the cause of autism in order to find the actual cause and hopefully a cure, but I don’t think they’re helping by being so ruthless and uncaring, essentially calling concerned parents idiots. 

What do you think?

Photo: futureatlas.com via Flickr

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