The growing number of vaccines recommended for babies, coupled with concern over potentially toxic ingredients, has left many parents worried. Here's some perspective from Dana Point, Calif., pediatrician Robert W. Sears, M.D. ("Dr. Bob"), author of The Vaccine Book (Little, Brown):
Q: What are the real concerns about vaccines?
A: Overall, vaccines are safe and effective at preventing diseases. However, they do have some rare but serious side effects, such as seizures and brain inflammation. Parents should be informed of these slight risks and weigh them against the dangers posed by the diseases themselves.
Q: Are there any risks associated with the AAP's vaccine schedule?
A: The American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP's) schedule recommends that infants receive a combination of as many as six immunizations during each of their 2-, 4- and 6-month checkups. If a baby has a bad reaction, it's difficult to identify which vaccine is the culprit. Also, many chemicals in vaccines, such as aluminum and formaldehyde, are known carcinogens or are potentially toxic to young brains when given in too-high doses. Giving fewer shots per visit, as well as spacing them out over several years instead of giving them within one year, allows the body to better process and eliminate these chemicals without compromising protection. (See "Dr. Bob's Alternative Vaccination Schedule" left.)
Q: I've been hearing so much about mercury. Is it still a concern?
A: Except for two brands of flu shots, mercury is no longer used to preserve vaccines. Still, I recommend mercury-free flu shots or none at all.
Dr. Bob's Vaccination Schedule
* The Measles shot is also recomended at 3 years.