If your pediatrician sent you a letter that said if you didn’t follow his vaccination schedule, your child could no longer be a patient, would that bother you? Or would it upset you more to know that your newborn was sitting next a family of children who weren’t vaccinated … ever? The recent measles outbreak confirmed by the Health Department has sent not only a flurry of angst to an already overfilled and angry internet, but also poses real questions that parents and even doctors are mulling over. As with many hot parenting debates, there is no easy answer that will appease all groups.
A couple of years ago, even before the current measles outbreak was top news, eight pediatricians at a Chicago pediatric office informed their patients by mail that they will “no longer see children whose parents refuse to follow the childhood immunization schedule developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.”
Dr. Scott Goldstein, one of the pediatricians who participated, explained why: “All of the available research shows that the safest and most effective way to vaccinate children is on the schedule set by the CDC and AAP. To go against that schedule goes against proven scientific research and puts patients who do follow the schedule at risk.”
“I would want my pediatrician to refuse unvaccinated patients. It is for the safety of all children in the practice,” says mother of two, and Staten Island resident, Christina Colombo. “If parents choose not to vaccinate, then they will have to do the legwork of finding a doctor who will take them despite them not following medical advice.”
It seems that more pediatric offices are following suit. In addition, the Wall Street Journal reports that, “In a study of Connecticut pediatricians published last year, some 30 percent of 133 doctors said they had asked a family to leave their practice for vaccine refusal, and a recent survey of 909 Midwestern pediatricians found that 21 percent reported discharging families for the same reason.”
But the question to do so is not simple. Pediatricians are called to care for the children, even the children (or perhaps, especially the children) whose parents have difficult views, or ill-fitted opinions. Pediatrician Dr. Sydney Spiesel discusses the difficulty of the situation in a recent Slate article:
“On the one hand, we profoundly believe in the value and importance of vaccines. On the other hand, we profoundly believe in the value and importance of caring for all children who need us, and some of those children have parents who refuse to vaccinate.”
Emily Patterson, who lives in the West Village and is a mom to a 2-year-old who has just finished up his set of scheduled shots, says that she would not want to go to a pediatrician that turned away children who need help.
“I choose to vaccinate my children, so they are protected. If the parent sitting next me chooses not to, that’s her business. I highly doubt the whole office will be infected just from taking in patients that haven’t been vaccinated. I mean, think about how many people you encounter on the subway, or coffee shop, or plane. Can you safely say that everyone you come into contact with has been vaccinated?”
Does your pediatrician mandate that you must follow the vaccination schedule? Would you leave his practice if he did? Does it bother you to think your child is sitting next to an unvaccinated child? Have you ever thought about it at all?
Danielle Sullivan, a mom of three, has worked as a writer and editor in the parenting world for more than 10 years. Sullivan also writes about pets and parenting for Disney’s Babbl