Mother Jones has been on the forefront of reporting on the spread of parents who believe that not vaccinating their children is the healthy way to go. Now they've spoken with one doctor who has built her practice on supporting that mentality.
Dr. Stacia Kenet Lansman founded Pediatric Alternatives, located in Marin County in Northwest California, in 1998, an area of the country where a large number of families choosing not to vaccinate their children live. If you're concerned about data, Kenet Lansman's numbers look very good: she says that in the 16 years she's been open, she's never had a child come down with "a serious, life-threatening, vaccine-preventable illness."
Kenet Lansman doesn't believe in not vaccinating children, but she does believe in skipping vaccines like chicken pox and vaccinating children for other diseases on a "delayed schedule." She calls this an "open-minded vaccine policy" that focuses on "health and not illness." In the first year of a child's life, she recommends the vaccine for pertussis (whooping cough), which also vaccinates against diphtheria, and tetanus, and meningitis. In a video interview, Kenet Lansman told Mother Jones's Kiera Butler that this is because she's seen a rise of whooping cough over the years. (Interestingly, Marin County has the second highest infection of the disease in California.) Kenet Lansman doesn't recommend the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine until age three.
"My feeling is that if there's any risk that the vaccine is associated with autism, then we should delay the vaccine during this vulnerable developmental window," Kenet Lansman told Mother Jones, explaining that even though she knows there's no actual proof that the MMR vaccine causes autism, allergies or other diseases, "anecdotally," she's seen otherwise.
But as she admits, she and the parents she treats can afford to be choosy about when they vaccinate – for now. She's based her strategy on "what diseases are prevalent in the community."
"We live in a very healthy community," Kenet Lansman says. "The incidence of these illnesses are very low, not only here, but nationwide. And so it's safe to do a modified vaccine schedule, in my opinion," adding that during flu season, her office "tends to be quiet."
Comfortingly, other doctors Butler spoke to do not see eye-to-eye with this strategy. They pointed out the inherent short-sightedness and entitlement held by people who live in wealthy communities, who practice this type of vaccine avoidance. But why should something like that matter? If it's working for you, who cares about anyone else who might be dealing with a measles outbreak right now?