Much of the recent media coverage on the debate about childhood vaccinations and the possible links to autism or other neurological disorders presents the issue as an “either/or” decision. Parents may feel they either have to vaccinate their children in complete compliance with the CDC mandated schedule or choose not to vaccinate their children at all.
A growing number of parents are discovering that vaccines are not all-or-nothing. If for any reason, you don’t feel comfortable with the vaccine schedule created by the CDC, there are steps you can take to create a schedule of immunizations that you feel comfortable with for each of your children.
1) Do your research. You will find impassioned viewpoints on either side of the vaccine debate, and it’s important to carefully evaluate the source of the material you are reading. Two resources that take a careful, middle-of-the-road approach are Dr. Stephanie Cave’s What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Children’s Vaccinations (2001) and Dr. Bob Sears’ The Vaccine Book (2007). (Dr. Sears has created an online companion to his book that includes a blog, online discussion forum, FAQs, and more. He also answers reader questions in a bi-monthly column at Metropolitan Mama.)
2) Evaluate your child’s unique and specific needs. Is there a history of illness in your family that causes you to be concerned about your child receiving vaccinations as a younger baby? Do you live in a community where there is a high incidence of a vaccine-preventable illness? Do you and your family plan to travel out of the country any time soon? There are many questions to consider when deciding which vaccines you want your child to receive and when. As your child’s parent, no one is better qualified than you to look at the big picture and make these decisions.
3) Create a vaccine schedule that best suits your child. Having done your research, you may feel comfortable following the CDC mandated schedule. If not, you can create a schedule that you feel will best meet the needs of your child(ren). Both Dr. Cave and Dr. Sears provide suggested schedules in their books, and there are more examples of schedules to be found online.
4) Talk with your doctor. Schedule an appointment to discuss the schedule you have created. Dr. Sears has some excellent insight into how to approach the discussion with your doctor. Some physicians may be more open to an alternative vaccine schedule than others. If you feel strongly that an alternative vaccine schedule is important to your child’s health and well-being and your doctor strongly opposes the schedule you have created, it may be that you will want to find a new health care provider.
5) Understand exemptions. If there are certain vaccines you oppose your child receiving, you may want to research your state’s specific policies and procedures on vaccine exemptions. This article at the National Vaccine Information Center is a good place to start educating yourself on vaccine exemptions.
FEEDBACK: Have you created an alternative vaccine schedule you would like to share with others? Tell us about it in the comments or link to your own posted schedule!