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Welcome! This is the thirteenth post in my vaccine series.  You may have missed  Getting Serious, 10 Bad Reasons Not to Vaccinate, Why “Science” Should Be Carefully Evaluated, What is Herd Immunity All About, How the Immune System Works, Ingredients in Vaccines Part 1, Ingredients in Vaccines, Part 2, Risk-Benefit Analysis: MMR, Risk-Benefit Analysis: DTaP, Risk-Benefit Analysis: Chicken Pox, Hib, FluRisk-Benefit Analysis: Pneumoccocal, Meningococcal and HPV, or Risk-Benefit Analysis: Hep A, B and Rotavirus.

Today we’re talking about alternative schedules.  If you were as disturbed as I was about some of the vaccines on the schedule, you may have decided to skip certain ones, or at least want to wait until your baby is older before offering some or all of them.  What are the options with alternative schedules, and why do certain doctors recommend against them?

What are Alternative Schedules?

When concern over vaccines become mainstream almost 15 years ago, a lot of parents began saying “It’s too much, too fast.”  They were seeking a way to protect their children without overloading their immature immune systems.  This led to parents choosing the “most important” vaccines only, and/or choosing to begin a more or less complete vaccine schedule at a later age, usually after age 2 years.

There are as many alternative schedules as there are families, since most set them up themselves, in conjunction with their pediatricians (sometimes).  The only “official” alternative schedule out there is the Dr. Robert Sears alternative schedule.  This is still not “official” in that it’s not recommended by any large organization, but it is backed by many alternative-friendly pediatricians.

How do Schedules Differ?

The typical CDC schedule looks like this:

  • Birth — Hep B
  • 2 months — Hep B, rotavirus, DTaP, Hib, pneumoccocal, polio
  • 4 months — Rotavirus, DTaP, Hib, pneumoccocal, polio
  • 6 months – Hep B, rotavirus, DTaP, Hib, pneumoccocal, polio, flu (if the right season)
  • 12 months — Hib, MMR, pneumoccocal, polio, Hep A, varicella
  • 15 – 18 months — DTaP, flu (if seasonal)
  • 4 – 6 years — MMR, varicella, DTaP, polio, flu
  • Flu vaccine annually, beginning at a minimum of 6 months of age

That is a lot, with babies receiving up to 7 shots in a single visit for up to 9 diseases.  Many parents feel overwhelmed by this and think their babies’ systems are not able to handle it.  Some parents do choose to follow this schedule, but may eliminate Hep B (at least so early), rotavirus, varicella, and flu.  These seem to be most “opted out” of vaccines.

In contrast, the Dr. Sears’ (alternative) schedule looks like this:

  • 2 months: DTaP, Rotavirus
  • 3 months: Pneumoccocal, Hib
  • 4 months: DTaP, Rotavirus
  • 5 months: Pneumoccocal, Hib
  • 6 months: DTaP, Rotavirus
  • 7 months: Pneumococcal, Hib
  • 9 months: Polio
  • 12 months: MMR, Polio
  • 15 months: Pneumoccocal, Hib
  • 18 months: DTaP, Chickenpox
  • 2 years: Polio
  • 2 1/2 years: Hep B, Hep A (start Hep B at birth if any close relatives or caregivers have Hep B)
  • 3 years: Hep B
  • 3 1/2 years: Hep B, Hep A
  • 4 years: DTaP, Polio
  • 5 years: MMR
  • 6 years: Chickenpox

All of the same vaccines are on this schedule as on the original CDC version, but there are no more than two shots per visit, and no more than four antigens.  The shots start at two months instead of birth (unless the baby’s mother or immediate caregivers have Hep B) and there are many more visits on this schedule.  The baby receives shots nearly every month.  Dr. Sears does have a delayed/selective schedule but I couldn’t find a copy.

Another type of alternative schedule might look like this:

  • 2 months: DTaP
  • 4 months: DTaP
  • 6 months: DTaP
  • 12 months: MMR, polio
  • 4 – 6 years: MMR, DTaP, polio

In this version (which I made up based on conversations I’ve had with parents), the schedule is pared down to closer to what the 1980s schedule looked like, and polio is delayed until an older age since it is not a serious threat at this time.

Another type may look like this:

  • 2 years: DTaP, MMR, (polio)
  • 4 – 6 years: DTaP, MMR, (polio)

This gives two options: to offer polio or not.  Some parents may opt for polio but not MMR.  Shots are not started until age 2 years to allow the blood-brain barrier to close, and only a couple doses are needed.  Some parents who start out thinking they won’t get any vaccines ultimately end up on a severely limited schedule like this one because they believe that ultimately, when kids are older, vaccines are protective.

Reasoning Behind the CDC Schedule

Some doctors are absolutely against any alterations in the schedule.  There are even those who will kick parents out of their practices for not following the exact CDC schedule, with no room for discussion.

Their reasoning stems from a few major points.

The Schedule as Is is “Carefully Studied”

Doctors and researchers state that the current schedule, as written, has been carefully studied to be optimal.  However, there are no studies that actually look at the effects of the full schedule on a developing child’s system, and certainly no double-blind, placebo-controlled studies.

Vaccines are Given When Risk is Greatest

It’s true that pertussis risk is greatest in very young babies, under 6 months of age.  Babies are vaccinated as early as they possibly can be (when they are supposed to develop sufficient antibodies) for each disease.  MMR isn’t offered until a minimum of 9 months because it fails to afford much protection before then; but it is offered as soon as it is considered effective.  Older children are not as nearly as high a risk of most of these diseases as babies are, which is why many doctors feel that it is best to vaccinate as early as possible and protect them when they really need it.

An opposing perspective is that breastfeeding and choosing carefully how and when to expose baby to the public may help protect them at very young ages, and that by the time they are older, they will not really need the vaccine(s) because they are no longer at serious risk.

Babies Respond Better to Lots of Antigens

One source I read claimed that babies ought to get all their vaccines at once because they actually respond better to more when their immune systems are immature.  This is a highly suspect claim, however.

Number of Visits

There is a concern with alternative schedules that if the shots are spaced out to do one or two a month that the sheer number of visits required would mean that parents wouldn’t want to bring their children in as often as required.  There are co-pays to think about and the time to make and attend each visit with the baby.  Doctors are worried parents would simply stop vaccinating or stop doing all the vaccines or doses.

Of these fours claims, only one — that diseases are most risky in very young babies — is worth considering in this argument.  The final claim is a minor concern, but for parents who are determined to space out the shots and still feel they are important to get, they will find a way to make the number of visits work.

Reasoning Behind Alternative Schedules

Parents are concerned about many issues when they are looking for an alternative schedule.

Blood-Brain Barrier

The blood-brain barrier doesn’t close until around age 2, meaning that it’s much easier for the toxic ingredients in the shots to cross this and cause neurological damage.

Quantity of Aluminum in Shots

Infants on the CDC schedule may get as many as 1225 mcg of aluminum in one visit, according to Dr. Sears.  Although no safety studies have been completed on aluminum in vaccines, he estimates that babies can probably handle around 30 – 50 mcg at once depending on weight.  He also notes that although babies do consume aluminum through breastmilk (and formula — soy formula has an incredibly alarming amount), that aluminum that is consumed by mouth is not the same as that which is injected.  Aluminum can lead to neurological damage, especially in younger babies.

Unnecessary Shots

Many parents believe that a lot of the newer shots on the schedule simply aren’t necessary, like flu, varicella, Hep B, Hep A, etc.  These shots have been added in the last 10 or so years and these diseases usually were not much of problem for children prior to adding these vaccines.  (See the individual risk-benefit analysis posts for more on that.)  They feel that their children do not need these shots at all and that offering them may do more harm than good.

Newer Shots

Some parents trust shots that have been on the market for twenty years or longer (shots from the 60s, 70s, and 80s), but do not trust those that have been created and approved in the last 10 – 15 years.  They feel that they have not been tested as well or proven safe over time.

Too Much, Too Soon

Some parents are concerned about the effects of so many vaccines at once on the baby’s immune system, which has never been completely studied.  There remains concern about vaccines being related to autoimmune disease.

Concern for Adverse Reactions

One area we haven’t talked about in detail is the very real and very scary adverse reactions that can occur after vaccination.  For parents who personally had a bad reaction, or whose parents, siblings, or other children did — the possibility is too real not to consider when making choices about future vaccines.   Vaccine injury isn’t to be taken lightly.  Although many doctors would have you believe that it’s “incredibly rare” or even “never happens,” this is simply false.  It happens.  Don’t use scare tactics or individual stories to make your decisions, but be aware that injuries can occur, especially in sensitive individuals (those with immune system disorders, mitochondrial disorders, multiple allergies, etc.).

What To Do?

There are legitimate concerns about the vaccine schedule, and in not vaccinating young babies.  It is up to each parent to decide which shots they feel are most important, if any.  The risk-benefit analysis posts can help you decide which you feel are important.

Talk to your pediatrician about this, too.  If the doctor says “CDC or nothing,” walk out.  Find someone who will treat you like an intelligent person and have a conversation with you, and find a way to meet your needs.

No one else can tell you what to do.  Read through all the material and talk to a medical professional you trust, and come up with a schedule that you feel fits your family’s needs.

How do you handle vaccines?  If you do an alternative schedule, what do you do and why?


This is the writings of:

Kate is wife to Ben and mommy to Bekah (6.5), Daniel (5), Jacob (3), and Nathan (1.5). She is passionate about God, health, and food. She has written 7 cookbooks and a popular book entitled A Practical Guide to Children's Health. She also recently released Healing With God's Earthly Gifts: Natural and Herbal Remedies, which teaches people to use natural remedies to keep their families healthy. When she's not blogging, she's in the kitchen, sewing, or homeschooling her children.

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20 Comments

  1. Just wondering why in your schedule you chose the DTaP vaccine? Why do you think that’s important?

    Reply

    • Hi Amelie, it’s not that I think it is, per se; a lot of parents I have talked to feel like it’s the one shot they want to get. A lot of people are concerned with the recent pertussis outbreaks, so that tends to be what they go for. Plus it is one of the older ones, diphtheria can be scary, the MMR is “more controversial,” etc. I don’t get it for my children but I was just basing this on what others seemed to find important.

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    • I understand that you include the DTaP because it’s the oldest, most “classic” vaccine. I researched the issue before my daughter was born in 2000, didn’t want the hep-B (but they gave it to her anyway and it caused encephalitis), I planned to, and in fact did, permit the series of four DTaPs at 2, 4, 6, and 18 months (but my baby got pertussis anyway at 8 and 9 months old-it lasted over a month), three Hibs, and three polios. I thought that was conservative, I said no to the varicella vaccine, and decided against the fourth Hib when I read in Mothering magazine about its causing diabetes.

      In retrospect, I wish I had not permitted any of them. Dr. Sears doesn’t think the polio vaccine is necessary any longer, and, though I think it’s one of the less dangerous vaccines, I wish I hadn’t gotten it for her. The DTaP wiped out her only two words at 18 months, and, since many mothers have reported the same effect, I’m sure that it further damaged her brain, while not protecting her from pertussis. There has been no diphtheria in the U.S. for decades, the diphtheria vaccine is dangerous, and it doesn’t always protect against the disease.

      I reacted to a tetanus booster when I was nineteen, probably given as a DTP, with both arms being paralyzed the same day, brachial plexus neuropathy, and I went on to develop MS. Parents should be aware that the disease tetanus is very dangerous, but rates had plummeted even before the vaccine came into use. High-dose vitamin C therapy greatly increases survival rates in cases of tetanus, and between the rarity of the disease and the modern high survival rate, I’m not going to get any more for me or my daughter. The tetanus vaccine is probably the most important of the vaccines parents should consider, and they must make up their own minds whether or not to get it.

      Some doctors recommend only the tetanus vaccine and the Hib. Breastfeeding and not being in daycare offer a lot of protection from Hib meningitis, and the vaccine is definitely dangerous, but so is the disease, when it occurs. The bad thing is that the Hib pathogen is a common commensal in a large percentage of people who carry it without its causing meningitis. It is thought that it only became a dangerous, relatively common disease after antibiotics started being used in the 1940s. Then when they took out HIb meningitis with vaccines, the Prevnar pathogen, also a common commensal in many healthy people, became much more common and dangerous, so they brought out the Prevnar vaccine. Taking it out has made the meningococcal pathogen more common. It may be that it’s very unwise to target pathogens which are usually just common microbes which live in balance with others in the digestive and respiratory systems of healthy people, taking one out just paves the way for more dangerous replacements. This is what is happening now with the HPV virus serotypes: there are at least 200 of them, new ones are discovered every time they look, and there are at least ten that cause cancer that are not included in the Gardasil or Cervarix vaccines.

      I understand the desire of many parents to choose an alternative vaccine schedule, I tried to do so myself, but I now have a daughter with vaccine-induced autism and bowel disease. There is no safe time to give any vaccine: each one is always a gamble. It may be safer to give vaccines to older children as opposed to iinfants, but there are many thousands of people older than infants who have suffered severe or fatal reactions to vaccines.

      Personally, I’d say give the tetanus vaccine to children older than one year old (or two) as just the DT, and the Hib to children over six months old but under two years old who are not breast fed and are in day care. But remember that any history of any autoimmune or neurological disease in close relatives greatly increases the risk of severe reaction.

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      • I forgot to mention that I said a big No! to the MMR. That is an extremely dangerous vaccine, and I am not afraid of the diseases for my daughter, having had measles myself.

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  2. thanks for putting this article together. It’s great!! I asked about DTaP vaccine because I thought I missed something in my research. will pass.

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  3. Great topic! I forwarded the email to a new mommy to be and it was perfect reading material for her also. Lots to think about for myself and my husband now that trying to have our first baby is on our mind :)

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  4. I chose not to have my children get the hep B shot at birth as I saw no need for it (not having the disease, or even knowing anyone with the disease). I wanted to delay and spread out the vaccines more closely to the Dr. Sear’s or 3rd schedule that you listed. But when I took my oldest to the pediatrician for her 1 month check up I learned that she had not yet even gained back her birth weight. I was concerned but the doctor was far more concerned with the fact that I had not yet given her the Hep B vaccine. He didn’t address the lack of weight gain, but told me that I could not understand all of the components of why we should vaccinate, that it really was rocket science and I could not possibly understand, and that he would “require” me to get the shot at the next visit. He never even asked me why I didn’t get it, or if I planned to in the future. He was more concerned with my daughters lack of an unnecessary shot than her real physical problems (turned out I had low milk supply due to a thyroid problem – an issue I ended up diagnosing and fixing myself). Needless to say, I never returned to that doctor. It soured my whole view of vaccines in general, and while I see the merit in vaccines, and feel that every parent should make their own choice for their own child – I have chosen not to vaccinate my children for now. I did a lot of research on my own, but your information is exhaustive and so helpful. All of that to say that I really appreciate all of the information you have given. You have given very straightforward and understandable answers to many of my and others questions, and really helped to empower us as parents and our children’s advocates. I often think about the doctor, and how he wanted to get paid for the shot(s) he would give my daughter, but any of their subsequent consequences would be paid by her, myself and my husband. (PS – I don’t believe that every doctor pushes vaccines in order to get paid, but that is the way it felt with this particular doctor. And I have since found a pediatrician who listens, is helpful and very supportive of whatever schedule I choose.) Thank you!

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  5. Thanks, as always for your thoughts. Since I’m expecting my first baby in a few months, I am hesitant to broach the subject with my doctor for fear it will lead to a strong disagreement. I need good facts to back up my arguments. As an infant, I only had one round of vaccinations before my mother joined “non-vaccinating” camp (none of my three younger siblings were vaccinated). I had the chickenpox naturally in the 4th grade and survived just fine! I’d want my child to be able to have them normally too… but you just don’t hear of anyone having them anymore.

    Reply

    • We opted for no hep B at birth (even the midwives agree this is unnecessary for most babies) and opted for the Vitamin K shot to be take orally which they are happy to do if you request it…but they don’t advertise it as an option.
      About the chicken pox…the issue with it is if they get it when they’re older. A family friend had it in her 20′s and nearly died! So..in my mind, chicken pox at 18 months is unncecessary but perhaps they can have it when they start to get closer to when it poses a greater risk (as a teenager)….Now, I’m in Australia so we are a litle different but when I took my 4yo to get his (which I regret) they gave him a booster of 6 vaccines including 2 they ‘used’ to get when they were teenagers. I was told that this is because teenagers are unreliable and ‘forget’ to get these vaccinations…so they give them at 4 instead! So, of course I ask…so they don’t really need it now? and was told no but was told there were no alternatives to that particularly booster with 6 vaccines!!

      Reply

    • I had chickenpox when I was in second grade, not a bad case, as it usually isn’t. I had shingles when my daughter was nearly two, I was young to get shingles, but I was under a lot of stress. My daughter caught chickenpox from my shingles: she had a fever and vomiting for one day, hundreds of lesions for two weeks, and then got well, with only one chickenpox scar to show for it, which has since faded. The vaccine is dangerous and has caused many deaths and cases of severe disability: read Dr. Mayer Eisenstein’s chapter on it.

      It is true that the disease can be more dangerous in older people. I have an Indian friend who caught it from his girlfriend’s young daughter, and he nearly died from it, was hospitalized and put on an ice bed to lower the fever(which was probably not a good idea).My father, on the other hand, had chickenpox when he was forty-three, and it was not a severe case, and he recovered quickly with no problems. I think it would be better to read about homeopathic treatment for chickenpox, have the suggested remedies on hand, and then just take your chances with the disease. More and more people are getting shingles now that there aren’t many cases of the natural disease around anymore to provide a natural “booster” dose of the virus to keep your immune defenses up, preventing a resurgence of the varicella virus permanently stored in the body. But remember that people who have gotten the vax often later get shingles as well as those who have had chickenpox: both methods introduce the live virus into your system, so getting the vax in no way protects you from later getting shingles.

      Reply

    • I highly recommend the book by Aviva Jill Romm called “Vaccines: A Thoughtful Parent’s Guide.”

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  6. I had my son at home so he did not receive any vaccines at birth. I did some research and decided to use Dr. Sears delayed schedule. We went every month from 2 months old to 7 months old. That is 6 vists, 3 more than the well exam schedule. On top of that we are self pay – no insurance. Using this schedule really shows you how many vaccines your child gets – 3 doses of 4 different vaccines. That is just crazy! Since then we have not given my son any more vaccines and will use religious exemption for school.

    I watched Dr. Tenpenny’s Vaccines the Risks and Benefits on You Tube. It was very informative and sealed the deal in deciding not to continue vaccinating my son. Looking at the diseases that the vaccines protect against, I feel in most cases, like chicken pox, it is safer to get the disease vs getting the vaccine.

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  7. Delurking to comment that we considered an alternative schedule (actually we skipped the Hep B in the hospital, and got the first part when baby was 1 month old), but after discussing it with our doctors, we (basically) follow the CDC schedule.

    I think that’s the most important thing – being able to have a discussion with your doctor and assess the risks from your own family’s perspective.

    P.S. Thank you for restoring the full feed to Google Reader! I’ve missed you! :)

    Reply

  8. I’m from Australia. I’ve been doing some research for my littlest one (now 10 weeks old) and are still unsure what to do. We have had scary outbreaks of pertussis where I live and are heading into winter so I rang the dept of health to ask if I could get pertussis on it’s own…was told no…that this vaccine comes in the ‘new’ booster that contains 6 vaccines ALL AT ONCE!!!! I was told that a doctor could (if he wasn’t opposed) order in the old DTaP but I would have to pay for it (which is fine). I’m feeling quite overwhelmed and still don’t know what to do…there are such strong opinions either side of the vacc vs non-vacc debate. Your posts are great and very helpful for me..so thank you!!!

    Reply

  9. Where we live there is ONE doctor in the whole city will allow alternative scheduling. He is not an option for our family so with a lot of prayer we have proceeded with our regular doctor. God has been so faithful. We didn’t do hep B at birth, didn’t have to do rotovirus and were able to delay many shots (against clinic policy!) Our regular doctor has done his research. He is the only one in the clinic that recommends not getting the flu shot and has given me as many liberties as he can. We feel at peace that God is blessing as we go.

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  10. [...] Analysis: Pneumoccocal, Meningococcal and HPV, Risk-Benefit Analysis: Hep A, B and Rotavirus, What About Alternative Schedules?,  How to Protect Unvaccinated Kids, or Responses to Vaccine [...]

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  11. Pat yourself on the back mama! Great information!!

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  12. My daughter at 11 months is completely unvaccinated. I personally am proud of my decision. I often hear a ton of critism from well meaning people…. Which is often offensive to me. So I would like to thank you for your post.

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  13. I have a 3 year old and 5 year old that I have not been vaccinated yet. I have not found a doctor I am comfortable with to discuss an alternative schedule, thus have waited this long. My husband would be more comfortable to vaccinate some; in this case, would you recommend the last schedule in my situation? In essence, my preference would the bare minimum. Please let me know your thoughts.

    Thank you

    Reply

  14. […] Welcome! This is the fourteenth post in my vaccine series.  You may have missed  Getting Serious, 10 Bad Reasons Not to Vaccinate, Why “Science” Should Be Carefully Evaluated, What is Herd Immunity All About, How the Immune System Works, Ingredients in Vaccines Part 1, Ingredients in Vaccines, Part 2, Risk-Benefit Analysis: MMR, Risk-Benefit Analysis: DTaP, Risk-Benefit Analysis: Chicken Pox, Hib, Flu,  Risk-Benefit Analysis: Pneumoccocal, Meningococcal and HPV, Risk-Benefit Analysis: Hep A, B and Rotavirus, or What About Alternative Schedules? […]

    Reply

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