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The number one kid's health book on Amazon is basically a guide to skipping vaccines

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

It's ranked the number one children's health book on Amazon.com, and it has the innocuous title, The Vaccine Book.

vaccine book

(Hachette)

But the book is actually the "bane of pediatricians' existence."

Some argue it may as well be called The Anti-Vaccine Book, because it encourages parents to skip some jabs and create unique vaccine schedules for their children that aren't based on science.

One of the key ideas behind The Vaccine Book, authored by Southern California pediatrician Bob Sears, is that babies' immune systems aren't ready for the shots they are supposed to receive, according to public health recommendations about vaccines. So children get "overloaded" with too many inoculations too soon.

"Vaccination isn't an all-or-nothing decision"

Sears argues, "Vaccination isn't an all-or-nothing decision." Kids can get the Hepatitis B vaccine at the age of two and a half instead of one month, for example, and the measles shot at age three instead of 12 months. Parents can forgo some vaccines altogether, such as the one for chickenpox.

Researchers point out that there's absolutely no science to this "too many, too soon" idea of stressing kids' systems with vaccines, and they've pointed out that the government-approved schedule is based on the best-available research about when kids are most at-risk for diseases and when their immune systems are most receptive to them. Also, the data that we have for routine vaccines suggests harms are infinitesimally remote.

The totality of the research is stacked against alternative schedules, said Dr. Doug Opel, a Seattle pediatrician who studies vaccines. "There is just no science to this," he told Vox. "What gets lost a lot of the time is that there's an incredible amount of data underlying the recommended schedule."

To read more about the parents who are opting to create their own vaccine schedules see our feature, "The vaccine delayers."

Scientists' protests haven't stopped the book for skyrocketing to the top of Amazon's rankings. That it so resonates with parents says something about the cultural moment we are living in right now: many moms and dads today haven't seen the horrors of vaccine-preventable scourges, such as polio and measles. They don't want to risk the potential harm — however remote — from a vaccine for a potential future benefit they can't imagine. But by delaying and denying vaccines for their children, they will be putting generations of kids at risk for illnesses that could have been entirely prevented.

The good news, however, is that these parents are still in the minority in the US. Though vaccine delayers outnumber outright vaccine-deniers (a 2011 survey of parents of young kids found that more than one in 10 used an alternative vaccine schedule) the overwhelming majority of parents chose to vaccinate their kids right on time.

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