Due to parents stigma on contracting infections from unvaccinated children, one in five pediatricians refuse to treat children of families who refuse to vaccinate them in the US, revealed a new survey.
Doctors in the South and Northeast were more likely to take this hardline stance. An ongoing medical debate continues to simmer over a doctor's right to refuse treatment for children whose parents are against vaccination, said Dr. Sean O'Leary, study lead author a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Children's Hospital Colorado in Denver.
‘Pediatricians consider vaccination very important and therefore sometimes use the threat of dropping a family from treatment to convince parents for vaccination.’
Though this is being practised at many hospitals in the US, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention both discourage this strategy. Instead they urge doctors to treat unvaccinated children and educate parents about the safety and need of childhood vaccinations. The survey was published in the Journal Pediatrics
"I'm hearing the practice has become more common, particularly in California, following the outbreak. Parents say, 'I don't want to take my child to a clinic with non-vaccinators and expose them to risk,' so there is parental pressure on some pediatricians," said O'Leary.
In 2012, researchers conducted a survey on 815 pediatricians and family physicians, in which about 66 percent of the doctors responded to the survey. Around 83% of doctors reported that 1 percent or fewer parents refuse one or more infant vaccines in a typical month. In this case, about 21% of pediatricians and 4% of family physicians always or more often do not treat them or dismiss them.
The survey results revealed that pediatricians who do not treat these children are five times more in private practice and four times more in the South, which does not allow philosophical exemptions of vaccination.
"Pediatricians consider vaccination one of the most important things they do. They might feel that the physician/patient relationship may not be a productive one if they're so far apart in terms of a core concept like vaccination," said O'Leary.
"Finally, pediatricians sometimes use the threat of dropping a family to convince parents to agree to vaccination. It really convinces a lot of parents to go ahead and get their child vaccinated, because it's such a strong message about the importance of vaccination," he added.