Almost every parent has questions about childhood vaccines, but nobody
can offer complete, authoritative, unbiased answers . . . until now. In The
Vaccine Book, Dr. Bob Sears explores the childcare question of the
decade, “Should you vaccinate your child?”
Vaccines have become the most controversial topic for parents and doctors today.
Most of you want to vaccinate your children, but you also want to know about the risks
and side effects of the shots. You don’t just want to be told, “Vaccines are perfectly safe and none of the concerns you read about in the media and on the internet have been proven to be true.” You want, and deserve, a fair, scientific and straightforward discussion of the shots you are giving your child.
You also want to know the risks of the diseases themselves. Which ones are most common and severe? Which are fairly rare and often mild? You want to fully understand the diseases you are protecting your child from. You want complete information on the pros and cons of vaccines.
My greatest passion as a pediatrician and a father of three children is to equip America’s parents with all the information you need to understand your child’s vaccines and make an educated decision. I have created TheVaccineBook.com because vaccine information and research is constantly changing. New vaccines come into play, and older vaccines are taken off the market. New problems are found, and old problems are solved. TheVaccineBook.com is designed to be an interactive supplement to The Vaccine Book to provide you with the most up-to-date information on vaccines, offer you resources to help you with your vaccine decisions, and to interact with me, Dr. Bob, online.
The Vaccine Book Table of Contents and Introduction
A Note to Fellow Physicians
A Note to the Reader
AAP 2007 Recommended Vaccine Schedule
Chapter 1 – Haemophilus Influenza B Disease and HIB Vaccine
Chapter 2 – Pneumococcal Disease and Pc Vaccine
Chapter 3 – Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis Diseases and DTaP Vaccine
Chapter 4 – Hepatitis B Disease and Hep B Vaccine
Chapter 5 – Rotavirus Disease and Rotavirus Vaccine
Chapter 6 – Polio Disease and Polio Vaccine
Chapter 7 – Measles, Mumps, Rubella Diseases and MMR Vaccine
Chapter 8 – Chickenpox Disease and Chickenpox Vaccine
Chapter 9 – Hepatitis A Disease and Hep A Vaccine
Chapter 10 – Influenza Disease and Flu Vaccine
Chapter 11 – Meningococcal Disease and Meningococcal Vaccine
Chapter 12 – Human Papillomavirus Disease and HPV Vaccine
Chapter 13 – Combination vaccines, vaccines for travel and special situations
Chapter 14 – Vaccine Safety Research
Chapter 15 – Vaccine Side Effects
Chapter 16 – Vaccine Ingredients
Chapter 17 – Myths and Questions about Vaccines
Chapter 18 – Parents Who Delay or Decline Vaccination
Chapter 19 – What Should You Now Do?
Should you vaccinate your child?
This seems to be the question of the decade for many parents. It used to be “How can I get my baby to sleep through the night?” or “How can I get my toddler to eat better?” But now almost all parents have worries about vaccines. In the old days most parents simply followed their doctor’s advice and automatically got their children vaccinated. But today, virtually every parent has heard that there may be some side effects and problems with vaccines, and parents are asking questions. The problem is, no one is giving complete answers. Or rather, they are giving one-sided answers. Either your doctor is telling you that all vaccines are perfectly safe and you have nothing to worry about, or your neighbor is telling you all vaccines are evil and deadly and you are crazy to vaccinate. So you find yourself with many unanswered, or inadequately answered, questions. You don’t want your child to catch any serious illnesses, so you want to vaccinate. But you want to know what the potential risks and side effects are. You want to make an educated decision. That’s what this book is all about. It is my goal to give you a balanced look at the pros and cons of vaccination.
Before I tell you what I’m going to share with you in this book, allow me to first tell you what I’m not going to tell you:
I am not going to discuss mercury or thimerosal, because fortunately these have been taken out of virtually all vaccines. I will tell you which shots still have very small traces of mercury (about 1% of the amount that used to be there) and alert you to the few shots that still contain a full dose of mercury, but I’m not going to discuss how bad mercury is (or was). This issue is tragic for those families who feel their child was affected by mercury, but for those of you who are making the decision today, mercury needn’t be part of the equation. If you use the right vaccine brands, and know where mercury is still present, you can get the complete vaccine series 100% mercury free. On page 228 I’ll give you all the pertinent facts you need to know about mercury.
I am not going to discuss the lengthy history of infectious diseases and vaccine discovery and evolution over this past century. While this is an interesting topic, I feel it’s just information overload for the purpose of this book.
I am not going to discuss every last conspiracy theory and possible shred of evidence suggesting that vaccines are harmful. We all know that vaccines have possible side effects. Just read any product insert; some of these side effects are potentially fatal. But fortunately they are extremely rare.
I want to be very clear on something right up front. This is not an anti-vaccine book. There are plenty of books out there that over-emphasize the potential dangers of vaccines and leave parents even more fearful and confused.
So, enough about what this book isn’t. Let’s find out what it is.
As I see it, vaccination isn’t an all-or-nothing decision. There are many choices that can be made. Some parents choose to get all the shots, others only choose some vaccines, and a few parents will choose no vaccines.
This freedom of choice, however, isn’t enjoyed equally by all Americans. Our nation’s public health service utilizes the public school registration process to verify that all children’s vaccinations are up to date. Only twenty states in our “free” nation allow parents to decline some or all vaccines at public school registration on the basis of personal beliefs. Twenty eight other states only allow parents to waive vaccines for school entry if their religion dictates they do so. Since most religions have no problem with vaccines, this loophole isn’t available to most people. Two states take it even one step further and have mandatory vaccination laws. Parents who decline vaccination in these states can have their children taken away. I don’t know if the authorities have ever gone this far in those two states, but the law does allow them to. Private schools, childcare centers, camps and other recreational clubs in most states can set their own vaccine requirements. Some are more lenient and allow unvaccinated children into their programs. Even if you live in a state with strict requirements, you still have the freedom to choose what vaccines to give your baby in the early years before school entry. On page 242 I will give you more details on what the various state requirements are.
If you choose to vaccinate, this book will answer your questions about how to proceed in the safest manner possible. Should you get all the shots together as they are recommended, or should you space them out a little bit? Are there one or two shots you might delay for now or skip altogether? Since there are currently 12 vaccines that are part of the routine childhood immunization schedule, parents have 12 separate decisions to make. If you thought you were only going to have to make one simple decision, and I’ve just made your life a dozen times more complicated, I apologize. But when you are done reading this book you will have more answers than questions, and enough answers to make an educated decision for your child.
To keep things simple, each chapter will discuss one vaccine/disease pair. I will tell you what each disease is, how common or rare it is, and how serious or harmless it is. I will then tell you how the vaccine is made, what the ingredients are, and what the possible side effects are (not the imagined theoretical side effects, but the proven or highly suspected side effects). I will then conclude each chapter with a discussion of the various points parents consider when deciding if that vaccine is important for their child. I will also share with you what steps you can take to minimize side effects when you do vaccinate your child.
Are all vaccines equally important? No. You will learn that some diseases are more common and/or more deadly. Obviously, vaccines to prevent those diseases would be more important, both for your child and from a public health standpoint. But a shot to prevent a disease that is extremely rare and usually harmless might be considered less important by some people. That’s not to say that such a vaccine is unnecessary, because if such diseases run rampant throughout our nation there would be some fatalities. Vaccine opponents claim the harm from the less important vaccines is worse than the occasional death from a disease. Anti-vaccine books seem to claim that all shots are bad, the diseases aren’t really anything to fear, and as long as you live a natural and healthy lifestyle, you don’t have to worry. I think this is a very irresponsible approach to the vaccine issue. Vaccines are beneficial in ridding our population of both serious and non-serious diseases. But families do have the right in our country to take their chances without vaccines.
Any doctor who writes a vaccine book takes a huge risk, because some people will automatically view any book about vaccines as an anti-vaccine book. They will assume the book is all about the dangers of vaccines and they’ll dismiss it without even picking it up. I have actually been advised by some of my colleagues not to write this book because of the risk of this misconception.
Well, I wrote this book because . . . there is no other fully-informed, unbiased vaccine book out there. Parents have nothing to read that doesn’t scare them away from vaccines. I don’t want to leave you in the hands of all the anti-vaccine books. I want you to know everything scientific there is to know about vaccines and the diseases they prevent. Because I’ve taken all my information from the vaccine product inserts and from medical journals and textbooks, you are getting the full picture your own pediatrician would probably give you if he or she had several hours to spend with you and had all this information memorized.
Some people feel that vaccine books aren’t necessary, because to read one implies you don’t trust your doctor or the medical community. After all, why not just ask your doctor if vaccines are absolutely necessary and safe and leave it at that? It takes all of one minute, then you’re done. No research or effort on your part is needed. Here’s the problem with that approach. Doctors, myself included, learn a lot about diseases in medical school, but we learn very little about vaccines, other than the fact that the FDA and pharmaceutical companies do extensive research on vaccines to make sure they are safe and effective. We don’t review the research ourselves. We never learn what goes into making vaccines or how their safety is studied. We trust and take it for granted that the proper researchers are doing their job. So, when patients want a little more information about shots, all we can really say as doctors is that the diseases are bad and the shots are good. But we don’t know enough to answer all of your detailed questions about vaccines, nor do we have the time during a regular health check up to thoroughly discuss and debate the pros and cons of vaccines. That’s why I’ve written this book. I did the research. I’ve spent the last 13 years learning everything I could about vaccines and the diseases they are designed to prevent and put it all together in one place so you could get all your questions answered.
There is little doubt that vaccines have played a useful role in eliminating some diseases from our population and limiting many others. Smallpox is a case-in-point. We stopped using this vaccine in 1969 because universal vaccination had succeeded in wiping the disease out of our country. Polio is another example of a disease that is no longer in the U.S. because of vaccination. Even though vaccines are important, you as a parent are still entitled to know what you are giving your child.
As a parent, you have a responsibility (and a desire) to make informed healthcare decisions for your family. Up until now, vaccines have been viewed as an automatic part of everyone’s childhood. But today’s parents are taking a more active role in making choices for their child’s medical care. That’s what this book is all about – information. Open, honest, complete, and accurate information that all parents can use. It’s taken me 13 years to complete my journey to understanding the world of vaccines, but I hope to guide you through it in just a few days. So grab some chips and salsa, maybe a glass of lemonade, relax in your backyard lawn chair, and let’s explore the vaccination decisions (all twelve of them) together.