My discussion with our pediatrician, Dr. R., went better than expected today. That's not to say he didn't try to talk me out of an alternative vaccination schedule or that he didn't give me a lecture on the horrible dangers my baby boy may face if I delay certain vacs or that he didn't blame vaccine opponents for spreading misinformation that could potentially cause a future increase in some pretty terrible diseases in our population. But, he did listen. We spoke respectfully to each other. I showed him The Vaccine Book (he'd heard of it but hadn't read it) and told him that reading it had enlightened my view of vaccinations, leading me to make the decision that an alternative schedule is best for Waylon. I was calm and confident and felt strongly about my position so I knew I had a good chance of making a positive impact on him. And our appointment ended in a compromise and an unexpected hug from Dr. R. which, for a non-hugging kind of guy, was a pretty big deal.
I went in to the office today determined only to get the DTaP and Rotavirus vacs for Waylon. I'd planned to delay the Pc and HIB for a month. Dr. R. did his best to put the fear of God into me over delaying the HIB vaccine as he described the two cases of resulting meningitis he'd seen during his 20+ years in pediatrics (one patient, a baby, died and the other patient graduated from high school but will never have friends or a job due to his disabilities). And although in The Vaccine Book Dr. Sears describes the risk from HIB as uncommon, with only about 25 cases in our country each year, I felt that going ahead with it today, especially since the brand they were offering was aluminum-free, would be a good compromise to show our concerned doctor that I was willing to listen to and respect his opinions.
Still, it was obvious that he was quite bothered that I was challenging the norm. He told me that if I'd said I didn't want to vaccinate at all he'd have to "let me go" because as a practice they had decided not to support non-vaccinating parents (He also said he was not 100% comfortable with that policy because he felt that if the parents stayed in the practice he'd eventually be able to convince them to get their kids vaccinated.). I, personally, think it's wrong to punish parents (and thereby their kids) from having opinions that differ from your own. You know, "do no harm" and all that. He kept trying to reassure me that his frustration stemmed not only from me declaring my position today but the fact that he's hearing from more and more parents who are concerned about vaccinating and that slows things down. I'm sure he wonders why we can't all just be quiet and trust and obey. But questioning the norm can only be a good thing. I told him that doctors shouldn't feel threatened by educated parents who are thoughtful and concerned enough to read, to research, to ask questions. He agreed, but rather grumpily.
I asked him what he thought about the aluminum content in several of the vaccines and whether or not a baby's kidneys could be expected to excrete the large amount included in combo vacs. He wasn't sure (and according to Dr. Sears, no one is. No extensive studies have been done to show that excessive aluminum is or is not a problem. But wouldn't you rather err on the side of caution and give your baby only one aluminum vaccine per visit that he's likely to be able to excrete in his urine instead of possibly overloading his system with a heavy metal that, in large quantities, he may not be able to excrete causing it to accumulate in his bones and brain?). I asked him about the animal tissues (cow fetal blood parts and monkey kidney tissue) present in some of the vacs as well as chemicals such as formaldehyde and how safe they are or aren't. He wasn't sure about that either. Then, I (rather respectfully I'd like to think) offered to lend him my copy of The Vaccine Book. If his patients are constantly bringing it up I thought he'd like to know, first-hand, what he's up against. He (rather respectfully) declined and instead said he'd have his medical student give it a look. Well, small steps will still get you where you want to go, I guess. At least he didn't didn't dismiss the suggestion completely.
I think it's probably easy for all doctors, not just pediatricians, to fall into a pattern of following the status quo and not questioning things. They are busy. They have lives outside of medicine. They trust that the AAP and the AMA will do their due diligence and keep them informed of important changes in the way things are done. And while I'm sure most doctors keep up with studies released in various medical journals regarding things such as the safety of vaccines, not all studies are independent which makes you wonder whose agendas could potentially be behind them. The bigger issue here, in my opinion, is that doctors should not chastise or dump parents who ask questions, who need answers, who want to be reassured that what they're being told to do is safe, especially when it comes to the health and wellbeing of their most precious, adored children.
Luckily, albeit begrudgingly, our pediatrician is open to working with me on an alternative vaccination schedule. I fear that many parents across the U.S. aren't finding this same flexibility with their doctors.