The Week in Books, No. 18

Admittedly, I should have done research on vaccines before having children, given that my brother and Josh both have autoimmune diseases. However, at the time I was focused more on changing the food we eat and chemicals we use in our home, which are also contributing factors to triggering autoimmune disorders. Recently Alicia began a series on the vaccine research she and Ryan are doing, and that prompted me to do some reading as well.

I checked out several books on vaccines, and decided to read two written by actual pediatricians who have clinical research backgrounds. There are many other books out there, but our approach to medicine is to take control of our health using lots of natural methods, but still work within the conventional medical framework. Some naturopathic or homeopathic writers have the attitude that all medicine is harmful, and all doctors are out to get you, and all drugs will make you sicker than you were before. While I appreciate and respect other people’s positions on those issues, and I think you have to make the best decisions you can about your family’s health (which may look very different from what we try to do), it’s just not where we are as a family.

That said, I thought The Vaccine Book by Robert Sears was the better of the two books I read. First, Dr. Sears is a pediatrician and studied vaccines specifically for 13 years prior to reading this book. Sears does believe in vaccinating, but appreciates that there may be reasons to delay or use a different schedule of vaccination for different children, rather than the one-size-fits-all approach suggested by the CDC. The book addresses each of the recommended vaccines, describes the risks associated with contracting the actual disease itself, the risks of the vaccine, and how you may want to approach that shot.

Best of all, Sears discusses each of the available vaccine brands for each shot, and tells you what they contain. I’m concerned about the levels of mercury still in some vaccines, and also the fact that many vaccines contain more aluminum than is allowed in other injectable medicines (if it causes problems with developing brains in one injectable medicine, I fail to see how it is harmless in an injected vaccine – Dr. Sears points out that there has been NO research on how the aluminum in vaccines is processed by children. It may be fine, but it may not, we just don’t know, and I think better safe than sorry.). If there are brands that have no aluminum and mercury or at least less than other brands, I’d prefer to go with those options.

What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Children’s Vaccinations was written by Stephanie Cave, a pediatrician with a background in clinical chemistry who is also on the faculty of the LSU school of medicine. In her private pediatric practice, Dr. Cave specializes in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, so her book explores more thoroughly the potential problems and risks associated with vaccines and autoimmune diseases. Rather than focusing on conspiracy theories, Dr. Cave draws on actual research and statistical analysis to help readers draw conclusions about the potential risks and benefits of different shots. Like Dr. Sears, Cave suggests that parents with a family history of autoimmune disorders should vaccinate on a different schedule, and suggests the schedule that she uses in her practice. The basic premise is that children who are breastfed and not in daycare and not around drug users or contaminated blood or who are not prostitutes can probably avoid a few shots usually given at birth, and can reasonably delay a few others until their immune systems are stronger, after which point shots can be given one by one rather than many all at once.

I plan to talk to our pediatrician about the possibility of spacing shots on a different schedule, in hopes that if she sees that I have a written out schedule I’m committed to keeping, she’ll let us do that. I understand that many doctors are unwilling to be flexible like that for reasons of liability or convenience, so I may wind up having to switch to another practice. On the website for Sears’ book there is a page of doctors who agree to list their practice as one that will be flexible about vaccination schedules, and there is one listed in Indianapolis. I hope I don’t have to switch, but at least there are options.

At any rate, if you’re interested in the vaccine issue, I’d recommend both of these books to you. Again, this is not to say that there may not be good information in the other books, but the ones I reviewed do achieve a good balance between the conventional vaccine position and a more natural approach.

Also Completed:
Judges, Ruth, 2 Corinthians

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