When I first heard from local friends that the anti-vaxxers in their lives were all atwitter about Dr. Bob and talked about how much they loved him, I assumed they meant Dr. Bob Sears, the Orange County pediatrician who takes a supposed middle ground to sell books that frighten parents away from vaccines.
My heart sank when I discovered that my home state has its own Dr. Bob. (Seriously, does every state have a Dr. Bob?) Like the California Dr. Bob, the Minnesota Dr. Bob Zajac seems to care more about how the parents of his patients feel about vaccines than how to protect their children against vaccine-preventable disease. His website explains how much he cares about these parents’ feelings:
Our philosophy at New Kingdom Pediatrics is to know the current recommendations for vaccination of children (based on the Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publications) and to share that information with the parents. We then focus our efforts in supporting the parent for choices they wish to make based on the information provided. We do not judge parents, we do not exclude parents from our practice, and in fact we embrace the opportunity for a true partnership in any vaccine or vaccine-preventable illness discussion. We believe there is some benefit to vaccination, and believe there are known/unknown risks with vaccines… but more than anything we also believe in parent choice. We typically have a Notary on site to notarize any forms for parental conscientious objection to vaccines, and sign medical exemption forms for children who have had reactions to vaccination. All recommended vaccines are now available and provided within our clinic.
See how much emphasis he puts on supporting parents and not judging parents? Certainly every parent who brings questions about vaccines to a pediatrician deserves support in a non-judgmental way. But then they deserve actual answers based on the science.
Parents who visit Minnesota Dr. Bob don’t get answers. They get some vague response about vaccines having “some benefit” and then a shrug about “known/unknown risks.” Why would a parents in his practice choose to vaccinate if the philosophy centers on how the parents feel more than helping the parents understand the real, actual answers that science has give us about vaccines?
Well, obviously the parents don’t vaccinate because they have a notary on-site to sign vaccine exemption forms. This seems an unnecessary convenience if the expectation is that parents would vaccinate.
I was going to leave this Dr. Bob alone because his practice is obscure and he is not a member of the AAP. I had assumed he was insignificant in the realm of anti-vaccine coddling doctors. And I had assumed wrong. It turns out, he is publishing a book with Kate Tietje, music teachers turned anti-vaccine mommy blogger and woo-entrepreneur (woo-preneur?).
For those who do not know Modern Alternative Mama’s Kate Tietje, she is indeed anti-vaccine. In fact, the menu of her blog has an entire vaccine section, which includes a response to us “vaccine propagandists”:
And yes, I do chuckle that she included a response to “Growing Up Unvaccinated,” in which she leads with the statement that she cannot prove whether or not the post is real–a nod to the conspiracy-believers who think that the author was a secret CDC operative writing for us.
In another post on her blog, Tietje callously brushes off the treatment of Hib, a bacterial infection that can cause sepsis and meningitis: “Typically, Hib requires hospitalization and a 10-day course of antibiotics, and possibly a combination of a couple different types. Most people recover without incident, although Hib is serious.” Oh, is that all?
All of her fear-mongering leads her readers to her shop, where she offers helpful books like “A Practical Guide to Children’s Health” for $17.95. That’s the real purpose of her blog, after all. To turn a profit.
Why would a pediatrician from suburban Minnesota align himself with a homeschooling mother whose background is in music education? Why hitch his wagon to a blogger who primarily writes recipe books?
Of course, I cannot know this Dr. Bob’s intentions. But I have to speculate that “Being Dr. Bob” means to placate the fears your patients have gleaned from the internet in order to sell your own books. In the meantime, I’d like to suggest to Minnesotans that if they want vaccine information from a Dr. Bob, that they instead opt for Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Bob Jacobson, who won’t sell you a book, but will carefully and kindly examine the evidence with you.