One observation I have made throughout my career is that parents approach raising children very differently.  To some mothers, their 5 year old son’s leg laceration is a cosmetic surgery emergency, others see their child’s first cut as one of many future battle scars.  Varied approaches to parenting extend to vaccine beliefs as well with many modern parents electing not to vaccinate.  Concerned pediatricians have taken note and many are now refusing to treat unvaccinated children.

Suspicion regarding the relationship of vaccines to autism along with other safety concerns about immunizations have some parents deciding not to vaccinate their children.  A 2011 study showed that 1 in 10 parents skip or delay vaccines.  Pediatric health care providers are concerned not only about the health of these children, but also those in the waiting room.  Unvaccinated children may pose a risk to patients too young to be vaccinated or with chronic health problems.

The American Academy of Pediatrics does not agree with pediatric providers refusing services to unvaccinated children.  The organization released a statement noting “Over time, some parents may be willing to reconsider previous vaccine refusals”.  Vaccination rates among children 19 to 35 months of age are at or above 90 percent for most diseases according to the CDC.  ‘Herd immunity’ does not diminish until vaccine rates fall below 80 to 90 percent.

Whether parents are misinformed or simply do not believe in vaccinating their children, providers should not shun families from their clinics based on these decisions.  It is our job as health care providers to offer information and recommendations based on medical knowledge and guidelines.  We are not enforcers, but rather medical experts offering our advice and opinions.  It is the parent’s responsibility to take this medical advice and apply it as they see fit for their families.

Even if you disagree with parent’s concerns about vaccines, use your visits with these patients as an opportunity to inform.  You won’t help accomplish improved immunization compliance by banning unvaccinated children from your practice.

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