Doctors Refuse Care to Kids Without Vaccinations

By Charlotte Hilton Andersen, REDBOOK


'Firing' your family's pediatrician is one thing, but a new trend finds pediatricians 'firing' patients. It isn't for failing to pay their bills, being overbearing, or even tearing out recipe clips from magazines in the waiting room. These days, the Wall Street Journal reports that up to 30% of pediatricians have admitted they ask some families to leave their practice for refusing to vaccinate their children.

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These doctors, who are greatly in demand thanks to a shortage of pediatricians, cite concerns ranging from financial pressures to no time to deal with "recalcitrant" parents. Many doctors are bringing up another concern in the latest survey: "A major factor [in asking the families to leave] was the concern that unimmunized children could pose a danger in the waiting room to infants or sick children who haven't yet been fully vaccinated."

This is a very real fear, as my sister recently found out. Her city has an outbreak of whooping cough, and because her 18-month old daughter has been diagnosed with Failure to Thrive, she hasn't had her pertussis vaccine. "My pediatrician recommended that we just keep her indoors and away from other kids until this passes," my sister explained. "But with three other kids to take to school and activities, how am I supposed to do that?" So it seems that doctors are asking some unimmunized children to leave in hopes of making their waiting rooms safe for vulnerable kids.

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On the other hand, some pediatricians worry that asking families to leave will lead their children to sub-standard care elsewhere. These doctors say that while they disagree with the parents about vaccinations, treating their families is better than turning away sick children. "The bottom line is you should try to do whatever you can to maintain the family in the best care," said Michael Brady, chair of the pediatrics department at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and a member of the AAP's immunization committee.

What's your opinion: Should doctors be able to ask families to leave their practice for refusing childhood vaccinations?

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