Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Vaccine Book by R. W. Sears

Did you know that between the ages of 0 and 5 children may receive 35 separate shots for ~14 different diseases if they follow the American Academy of Pediatrics schedule? And, some of these shots are combined, for example, DTaP vaccinates children for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis and 5 shots of it are recommended. The Vaccine Book takes a look at each vaccine, and the severity and frequency of the disease it prevents, as well as the ingredients and manufacturing process.

This is an interesting book for a couple reasons. Even if you plan to get all the shots recommended and follow the vaccine schedule proposed by your pediatrician, there are still choices to be made. Do you want to get the MMR shot or the MMR combined with chicken pox shot? How about the DTap, hep B and polio combined shot? A combined shot makes for fewer times the child is actually poked so that would seem to be a good thing, right? Here’s what Dr. Sears has to say, “I am not a big fan of combo shots. I prefer to spread the vaccines out and give less at each visit in order to avoid overloading a baby with so many shots and chemicals at once.”

Even in if you don’t have kids, you might find some of this information useful for yourself. Each section considers overseas travel and how you might want to vaccinate differently based on where you might travel. This could be helpful reading for the college student or retiree heading off on an adventure.

I found the chapter on the Hep B vaccine very interesting reading. This shot is given to newborns in the hospital almost as soon as they are born. Since Hep B is a sexually transmitted disease, one wonders how could a baby get it except from the mother? Is Hep B so prevalent that this is a huge risk? Sears argues that the reason this shot is required at birth is because the prevalence of Hep B in infants and children was overestimated when the decision about when to vaccinate was made. According to Sears only ~360 kids per year were diagnosed with Hep B before the vaccine was used and now it’s down to about 130 confirmed cases each year. That’s nothing like chicken pox where the US went from 3.5 million cases per year to ~50,000after the vaccine was introduced.

For an up-to-date discussion on vaccines, including the H1N1 flu vaccine, see the book’s website.

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