Dr. Paul vs. Dr. Bob

This month’s Pediatrics has an article by Dr. Paul Offit, vaccine expert and author of Autsim’s False Prophets, which reviews Dr. Bob Sears’ The Vaccine Book, and points out the book’s various flaws (though in a non-spoonfeedy way, which can be a problem for the non-scientifically minded; one has to actually look at the studies he references to be convinced of his point) in The Problem With Dr Bob’s Alternative Vaccine Schedule. He points out many flaws I’d only mentioned in passing and some I didn’t mention at all (or have, but in the context of other non-Dr. Bob posts). I find it odd the aluminum issue, which is a major one in Dr. Bob’s book, gets only a small paragraph in Offit’s review (one which I’ve gone into in greater depth here – 2 pt. series). Another issue I’d hoped he’d take on was Dr. Sears’ recommendation of various vitamins and supplements. Though some of them do have some small effect on the immune system (mostly observed via in vitro studies), there is really no proof your child will react better or have fewer side effects from vaccines if taken. In fact, for all we know, the opposite might be equally true – the potentiation of the immune system may increase the intensity of side effects. Dr. Sears directs (p. 190 in his book) parents who want to learn more on the subject to his website, which contains links where one can buy said supplements via the Dr. Sears family website. I’m no ethics expert, but that doesn’t seem awfully kosher to me.

Doc Sears has responded to Offit’s article on his website. While I tend to agree that Offit has protrayed Sears as somewhat more anti-vaccine that he actually is, this doesn’t negate his other, spot-on criticisms.

(Hat tip – Janna 🙂 ).


9 Responses

  1. It looks like this post might be missing the first paragraph? Is this Paul Offit’s article in Pediatrics?

  2. Thanks, Nancy. I’ve been having technical problems these past few days.

  3. That was really interesting. I read both articles and I’d have to say that I felt Offit’s interpretation of Dr. Bob’s attitude was correct. Although Dr. Bob may not consider himself to be anti-vaccine, I felt that he was saying that you should probably get vaccinated just as your civic duty, but it would likely never benefit you personally.

    I felt like Dr. Bob’s response was kind of whiny and if he really didn’t mean things the way Offit interpreted them, then he needed a better editor to point out that he wasn’t saying things the way he intended. There is a reason why every time I encounter anti-vaxers, they recommend reading Dr. Bob’s “completely unbiased book” that helped them make their decision not to vax or to do it on a separate schedule.

  4. I think Bob is being disingenuous. I do think many pediatricians aren’t sure what to do in these situations. For that I blame the lack of leadership of the American Government which says vaccines are safe on the one hand but has a vaccine injury compensation fund the other.

    In Bob’s case however, parents are coming to him precisely so to find someone to enable (yup, enable) their determination not to vaccinate on the basis of spurious and it has to be said, very middle class (in the classic sense of the ‘chattering classes”) preoccupations with imaginary toxins in the environment. He *knows* this. His family has a dynasty based on this stuff, and yet, even though he claims to understand that vaccination is more than proven to be safe he takes the coward’s road of offering this ‘third way”, which probably creates a situation in which no one knows where any child is in terms of vaccination at any given point in time.

  5. I realize this comment is a little late in coming as this particular post is more than two weeks old, but I wanted to quietly pipe up a tiny defense of Dr. Bob’s book. I’m one of those first-time parents who was so torn on making a decision on whether or not to vaccinate (whether or not to do this or that and every little detail that you’re bombarded with all during your pregnancy, very nearly sending you down the path of hysteria if you let it get to you) that I probably would have just thrown up my hands and said “the hell with it, no!”
    I do NOT believe that autism is caused by vaccines. I can’t even hear the name Jenny McCarthy without getting ticked off. With that said, I’m not entirely sure what -exactly- I was afraid of, except that I felt that there was some sort of “yes” or “no” decision to be made and if I didn’t do some decent research that I was bound to make the wrong decision. (And that whatever the “wrong” decision was, it would have dire consequences, obviously!)
    Bring on Dr. Bob’s book. I’ve read it cover to cover at least three (more likely four) times, and particular chapters multiple times more. I toted it with me to the first appointment with our new pediatrician (the old one actually dismissed us from the practice via her nurse for just wanting to have a conversation about vaccines–yeah, I wasn’t refusing to vaccinate, I just wanted to chat!). In the end? I feel a lot better about vaccines. They’re not mysterious to me anymore. We’re going to fully vaccinate, because I feel that they’ve been -explained- to me instead of forced onto us. I see how important they are, I see how much my baby (and society) will benefit from them, and I see how low the real (and hypothetical) risks really are.

    I just feel like there’s a lack of representation from the pro-vax-but-also-pro-Dr.-Bob corner, and I’m not sure if it’s because not a lot of parents like me actually exist, or if it’s because we’re just not congregating on the same sites as other pro-vax people.

  6. Ashley,

    I’m all for explaining the ins and outs of vaccines to worried parents (and have been doing so in person and online for over 10 years). You don’t need to lend credence to conspiracy theories to do that, though, or cater to public fears based on irrationality by devising an ‘alternative vaccine schedule’…as does Dr. Sears.

    I’m glad you went to your pediatrician to research your decision. That is as it should be (unless your pedi is someone like Drs. Jay Gordon or Paul Fleiss, of course, in which case I’d seriously question your choice of pedi 😉 ). I don’t entirely understand how Dr. Sears’ book was helpful to your decision making process, though.

  7. I can see some value in Dr. Bob’s book, in that he does explain things to the layman. (Which you do, too, Esther, but not as many people read your blog… yet!) With all of the hype about vaccines right now, it is kind of scary.

    I’d already decided to fully vax on schedule when I started doing my research that led me to this blog, but it made me feel better to read all of the pro-vax info. Reading Dr/ Bob’s book gave me a better understanding of how vaccines work and how they are made, which was nice for the geek in me. 😉 Now if only he had some understanding of the scientific method, I might actually be able to recommend the book as useful reading material.

  8. “I don’t entirely understand how Dr. Sears’ book was helpful to your decision making process, though.”

    It took away the mystery and enabled to make me feel like I was making at least a semi-informed choice for my baby, and not just going for one camp or the other based on who I thought was crazy. (You know–Jenny McCarthy = crazy/misguided/delusional, ergo we should vaccinate so we’re not like her.) I can see your argument that his alternative schedule caters to public fears. . .but do you think that if the choice a parent is going to make is between an extended (but fully inclusive) schedule and no vaccinations at all, that it’s better to at least go for the extended schedule? Perhaps he should have just reinforced the safety and effectiveness of the AAP schedule and not fussed around with that “third road,” yes…but I imagine that there are a lot of parents out there who are swayed to meet at that halfway point (the extended schedule) who ultimately come back home to the AAP schedule once they realize that hey, their baby is really actually going to be okay. I sort of doubt that anyone who was happy with the AAP schedule is suddenly going to deviate to the alternate one, but perhaps I’m naive.

    I certainly appreciate this blog as a new alternative source of information. The problem with blogs when I was originally searching for information is that there are, obviously, SO MANY. My new question to you, then–if you were going to recommend a book about vaccines to new, concerned parents, what would it be?

    Just going to amazon.com and typing “vaccines” and checking out the auto fill choice that appear indicates that most searches on the topic are obviously from frightened (and probably fairly desperate) parents.

  9. I would recommend Do Vaccines Cause That?! By Diego Pineda and Martin Myers. I wrote about the book here, along with some online reliable vaccine resources. Other reliable online resources are the CDC, the Institute for Vaccine Safety, and vaccines.org.

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