Docs Drop Parents Over Vaccines

10.29.09 Dismissing a young patient if parents refuse to immunize is becoming more common

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Parents, beware: Pediatricians may legally deny care to your children if you refuse to vaccinate them, ABC News reports. As the anti-vaccination movement increases, some doctors in response are turning away or "firing" patients whose parents won't immunize them.

In general, most physicians try to work with parents and are reluctant to use such extreme measures. Despite repeated statements from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that vaccines have no link to autism, the anti-immunization movement is growing and making some parents very wary, ABC News says. Not to mention the recent news reports discrediting theories about links between autism and vaccines and stomach troubles.

At a recent AAP meeting, Kentucky pediatrician Gary Marshall, M.D., told attendees that they have a choice in treating unvaccinated patients, especially if it's clear that a physician and the family will never agree on this specific issue.

However, certain steps are necessary to avoid charges of abandonment. To legally refuse care, a doctor must provide written notice that he or she will no longer treat a patient and give that person at least 30 days to find another doctor.

Currently, most pediatricians follow the AAP schedule of vaccines. But the growing number of vaccines recommended for babies and children, coupled with concern over potentially toxic ingredients, has left many parents confused. In response, some doctors offer an alternative vaccination schedule, citing an effort to limit side effects and avoid chemical overload.

Remember, the key to this issue is to communicate with your pediatrician. Vaccines have contributed to the elimination of many diseases worldwide, which is why so few doctors are willing to stop or even delay giving them. But this doesn't mean parents don't need an in-depth explanation of the risks and benefits of all vaccinations. Don't be afraid to voice your fears to a trusted pediatrician—and if you don't feel comfortable with his or her response, maybe it's better for all parties involved if you make a switch.

Maria Vega is Fit Pregnancy magazine's copy editor.