Childrearing

Anti-Vaxx Doc Unbelievably Uses Herd Immunity As A Reason Why His Patients Don’t Have To Vaccinate

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bobI’ve never heard of Dr. Bob Sears because I believe in vaccinations and recognize my social responsibility to public health. I guess if I didn’t, I may have searched him out or even bought his book, The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child, like 250,000 other parents have. Apparently, the man has become a celebrity of sorts among parents who are afraid to vaccinate their children.

It’s been said Sears lends a sympathetic ear to those parents most physicians do not support — the ones who are afraid that vaccines do more harm than good. Dr. Sears does not seem to consider himself anti-vaccination, rather he sees himself as a balance between both sides of the debate. But as ScienceBlogs.com explains, his alternative schedules certainly aren’t supportive of public health:

while playing the “open-minded” “tell both sides” gambit, Dr. Sears credulously regurgitates virtually every anti-vaccine canard as though it had scientific validity. At the end, he presents his very own “alternative vaccine schedule,” which delays various vaccines and, according to Dr. Bob, is safer than the currently recommended schedule. All the while, he urges parents not to tell their neighbors if they don’t vaccinate in order not to spread their fears to others, because an increasing number of unvaccinated children will result in a decline in herd immunity and a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases.

About half his patients decide against vaccines altogether. The others follow his “alternative and selective” vaccination schedules, which delay or eliminate certain immunizations. This type of schedule has been proven to be dangerous. As it turns out — parents are not the best at keeping up with this kind of thing.

I’m not going to lie — I think any doctor who tells his patients it’s A-okay not to vaccinate their children is a danger to society. This particular doctor infuriates me even more, because one of the biggest arguments he uses to convince his patients it’s safe to leave their children unvaccinated is herd immunity. So basically he validates the effectiveness and importance of vaccinations in the same sentence that he advises his patients that they don’t need to get them. The LA Times reports on what he said at a conference this year:

“I do think the disease danger is low enough where I think you can safely raise an unvaccinated child in today’s society,” he said. “It may not be good for the public health. But … for your individual child, I think it is a safe enough choice.”

Herd immunity is what happens when enough of the public is immunized against disease for a long enough time – basically, the herd is safer because a large percentage of the population can not catch the disease due to vaccination. Herd immunity is very, very important for people who are immunocompromised and can not safely receive vaccinations.

“We eliminated endemic measles in the U.S. in 2000. It’s now 2014 and we’re at 400 cases. Why?” Dr. Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said in an interview in June. The number of cases has since risen to nearly 600. “Because people listen to Bob Sears. And, frankly, I blame him far more than I do the Jenny McCarthys of this world. Because he’s a doctor. And he should know more.”

Maybe when these diseases start making epidemic-level comebacks, we will start refusing to allow doctors like Sears to practice medicine. Until that happens, he will get to espouse his anti-science b.s. to patients who are benefitting from the very thing that they are afraid of. Vaccinations and herd immunity are keeping your children safe, anti-vaxxers. Even one of your own is admitting it. So you will happily reap the benefits of herd immunity, while at the same time turning a blind eye to science?

That makes a lot of sense.

(photo: Twitter)