How pediatricians should handle families who refuse vaccines

How pediatricians deal with families who refuse to vaccinate their kids is a contentious issue.

There are some offices, for instance, that flat out refuse to treat kids who parents say “no” to vaccines. But is taking such a hard line wise?

A recent piece from the Wall Street Journal looks at the issue. According to the former chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ bio-ethics committee, “the vast majority of physicians just agree to disagree.” The data appears to support that approach.

A 2006 study found that “74% of members who participated had one or more parents refuse at least one vaccination in the past year; 32% of those parents changed their minds after education efforts from the doctor. Only about 16% of pediatricians said they sometimes discharge families if the parents won’t relent.”

Having almost one-third of families actually change their mind when it comes to vaccines is encouraging.

That alone is reason enough to keep families who initially refuse to vaccinate their kids. Perhaps once they see an increasing number of stories chronicling measles or polio outbreaks, they’ll stand a better chance at listening to reason from their pediatrician.

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  • jsmith

    I usually give pts three strikes. Three strikes and then perhaps they should seek medical care from someone whose medical philosophy is more in line with their own because butting heads is no fun for either of us. Vaccine refusal is only one strike. Not many pts strike out in my practice.

  • dr.k.

    My ex-husband and I refused vaccines for our children at his insistence. In a debate with the pediatrician, my ex asked the doctor for independent studies demonstrating vaccine safety and efficacy. He meant “independent” in the sense that they were not paid for by corporate vaccine producer money.

    The doctor produced nothing. Our kids went unvaccinated.

    If the medical profession wants to gain the trust of the educated public (the ones who know about how studies are financed, for example), it needs to get out of the back pocket of the pharmaceutical industry.

  • Dr. Mary Johnson

    Dr.K, if it’s a real education you want, you might want to take a gander at the Mighty & Insolent Orac’s site.

    For my own part, I’ve lost the energy to counter “arguments” like the one above . . . and have instead retreated to the insulated world of the Pediatric hospitalist . . . where I don’t have to fight the patient education battles supposedly won long ago . . . but will likely see more and more of the diseases we once thought were all but erradicated.

  • Primary Care Internist

    physicians are not in the “back pocket” of pharma. Quite the contrary, pediatricians usually LOSE money on vaccinations.

    I don’t know what kind of doc you are, but clearly you do not understand coding/billing and reimbursement issues as pertaining to vaccines.

  • anonymous

    The funny thing about the above statement is that the one study that showed that tried to show a tenuous link between autism and the MMR vaccine was funded by a British trial lawyers group that was in the midst of suing vaccine manufacturers. So, to apply the same demand, show me an “independently” funded study, indicating that vaccines are unsafe.

  • kevin windisch

    the article suggests that we should accept vaccine refusers into our practice but when a newborn catches measles in my office after being exposed to a vaccine refuser with the disease it is my fault for allowing it to happen. It also becomes my liability. No thank you.

    When I miss a case of HIB and the kid becomes permenantly brain damaged it also becomes my liability. I say let somebody else malpractice on your child, I won’t go there.

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