The last couple weeks in my weekly autism-related post I've been sharing information about the vaccine debate that surrounds autism. I'm well aware that this is a controversial topic and opinions have been abundant in the comments. I appreciate everyone who contributes to the discussion. There are so many questions surrounding autism and so much more research to be done. I just want to keep this topic in front of us and keep pushing ahead in the direction of hope and change.

Today I'm going to talk a little about communicating with your pediatrician about any vaccine concerns you may have. The information for this post comes from the Ask Dr. Sears website. Dr. Sears is a pediatrician who has practiced for over 30 years and he is the leading voice in alternative vaccine schedules.

The official position of the medical community is that the current vaccine schedule is perfectly safe. So if you interact with your doctor you will be told this and in many cases, be made to feel irresponsible and ignorant for thinking differently. Most doctors feel that the standard vaccine schedule is so important that they are unwilling to work with parents who are interested in alternative options. But there is good news. Times are changing. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommends that doctors work with parents who have questions and concerns and want to do things a little differently. The new AAP guidelines are listed in the 2006 Red Book of Infectious Diseases -- a manual that almost every pediatrician owns. In the Book, the AAP suggests:

-A non-judgmental approach is best. Listen carefully and respectfully to the parent's concerns.

-Inform the parents of the risks and benefits of each vaccine as well as the risks of each disease.

-For parents who are concerned about multiple vaccines at one visit, develop a schedule that spreads the vaccines out.

-Continued refusal to vaccinate after adequate discussion should be respected (unless the child is at significant risk of serious harm during an epidemic).

-In general, pediatricians should avoid dismissing patients from their practice solely because of refusal to vaccinate.

But when approaching your pediatrician, you will have more success if you keep a few things in mind. It takes a good 15 to 30 minutes to discuss vaccine concerns and options in detail. Doctors don't allocate time for in depth discussions like this in a regular check-up appointment. You should schedule a separate appointment, preferable well before your baby's first shots are due. That way you and your doctor have a nice chunk of time directly devoted to discussing vaccines, without having to go over all the other questions and concerns of a normal checkup.

But what if your doctor won't work with you? Many doctors still kick patients out of their practice for asking too many questions or for not being willing to follow the recommended vaccine schedule. Find another doctor. You are responsible for making decisions regarding your health and the health of your child.

Dr. Sears has compiled a list of "vaccine-friendly" pediatricians - doctors who are willing to work with patients who are interested in delaying or declining vaccines. You can find a vaccine-friendly pediatrician near you by clicking here.

Edited to add: Comments will only be approved if they use appropriate language and are not anonymous (valid email address provided).
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