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Delaying vaccines is a bad idea. Here's why most doctors do it anyway.

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Pediatricians are facing pressure to delay and space out kids' vaccineseven though scientific evidence suggests this is a bad idea.

According to a survey of US pediatricians published today in the journal Pediatrics, 93 percent reported that parents had asked them to space out their kids' vaccines in a typical month, and about one-fifth said that 10 percent or more of parents they saw made such requests.

The doctors themselves thought this was an unwise decision. About 87 percent believed parents were putting their kids' at risk of contracting vaccine-preventable diseases and that it was more painful for children to return repeatedly for separate shots.

Yet despite the concerns, most providers agreed to comply with parents' requests anyway, reporting that doing so built trust with families. As well, 80 percent of the pediatricians in the survey said they worried they'd lose their patients all together if they refused to delay kids' vaccines.

The vaccine delayers

Its not entirely surprising that doctors are under pressure to space out kids' shots. Right now, the number one children's health book on Amazon.com, The Vaccine Book, is essentially an anti-vaccine tome that encourages parents to skip some jabs and create unique vaccine schedules for their children that aren't based on science.

vaccine book

(Hachette)

The book has been called the "bane of pediatricians' existence."

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.

Researchers point out that there's absolutely no science to this "too many, too soon" idea of stressing kids' systems with vaccines, and 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."