I often rely on fellow bloggers, the news, and media for blog topic inspirations. When the article “Urban Baby Blog: The Anti-Vaccines Movement Worries Me” from NBCLatino popped up in my inbox, the ideas began flowing through my mind. Based on the title alone, I assumed this was a look at vaccines from the Latino community’s perspective, highlighting the concerns they have about those who choose not to protect their families through vaccination. By paragraph two I realized I was only half right. The author of this piece, Rachel Figueroa-Levin, started off strong, but things quickly took an all too familiar and dangerous turn as she “fully disclosed” following an alternative vaccine schedule based on the writing of Dr. Sears (we’ll tackle Dr. Sear’s theories another time). After that statement I found the rest of her article to be quite contradictory and decided to write an open letter of sorts to the author.
As a vaccine advocate and fellow blogger you immediately pulled me in with the title of your article, but I was very concerned with what I read after paragraph one. You disclosed that your child is receiving vaccines on a delayed schedule, but shortly after described the anti-vaccine movement as being “based on misinformation, panic, and straight up lies.” Unfortunately, delayed or alternate vaccine schedules and the anti-vaccine movement are one in the same as both lead to decreased protection from vaccine-preventable diseases by choice. You say that your child’s vaccine schedule is based on the recommendations of Dr. Bob Sears, but Dr. Sears himself has made it quite clear that his schedule is not based on scientific research, but rather on his opinion stating “My schedule doesn’t have any research behind it. No one has ever studied a big group of kids using my schedule to determine if it’s safe or if it has any benefits.” (“The Truth about vaccines and Autism.” iVillage, September 2009). And while I realize your decision to vaccinate at a slower pace is not based on a fear of autism, it is worth noting for those that do chose this path out of fear, a 2010 study has shown that children who received vaccinations based on a delayed schedule were just as likely to develop autism as those who followed the recommended vaccine schedule.
I do agree with you in terms of herd protection. Herd protection is only useful in protecting those who are unable to protect themselves based on medical conditions such as severe illness or allergies, not because a parent decides their perfectly healthy child should not be immunized. What strikes me about your stance on this theory is that you say “You have a responsibility to vaccinate healthy children to protect the unhealthy children in our communities,” but by following a delayed schedule you are potentially putting other children at risk if your child contracts a vaccine-preventable disease that she could have been vaccinated against if she were immunized as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Just as you encouraged those considering not vaccinating their children to reconsider, I ask you to reconsider delaying vaccinations. You are correct, there is no conspiracy theory, vaccines are safe, and there is a vast amount of research available showing that vaccinations do not cause autism. However, that same scientific research also shows that vaccines should be given as recommended and not on a delayed or alternative schedule which puts children and their peers unnecessarily at risk of contracting vaccine-preventable diseases. Encouraging parents to “get the basic most dangerous disease” vaccinations not only goes against what any credible medical expert would recommend, but gives the impression that some vaccine-preventable diseases are “safe.” Any vaccine-preventable disease can be fatal. There is no safety net.
As you wrote your article I have no doubt that your intention was to encourage parents to do the right thing and protect their children through vaccination, but delaying vaccinations is just as dangerous. Vaccinating on time, every time is the safest option.