ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) – One out of five pediatricians regularly turn away families who refuse to get their children vaccinated.
“The families essentially are saying I don’t want to bring my child to a practice that accepts non-vaccinaters because I don’t want my kid getting sick in the waiting room,” lead author Dr. Sean O’Leary told CBS News.
The researchers surveyed 815 pediatricians and family physicians in 2012. 66 percent of the doctors responded; most said it was rare for a parent to refuse to vaccinate their child.
But when a parent makes that choice, 21 percent of pediatricians and 4 percent of family physicians in the survey reported that they “always” or “often” dismiss these families.
“For some pediatricians, they really feel like it actually compels some parents to get their child vaccinated,” explained O’Leary. “Imagine that you’re a parent and it’s your infant’s two-month-old visit and you’re on the fence about getting your child vaccinated. Your pediatrician tells you they feel so strongly about it that they don’t take care of people who don’t get vaccinated in their practice. That may convince you that it’s a good idea to get it done.”
The strategy is most common among doctors in private practice, those located in the South, and those in states with vaccination laws that don’t allow philosophical exemptions, the study found.
O’Leary pointed out that family physicians may be less likely than pediatricians to dismiss patients because they care for the whole family and they do not encounter as many infants, and therefor not as many many vaccine-hesitant parents, as pediatricians.
A big unknown is what happens to families who are dismissed. “We just don’t know what happens to those families,” O’Leary said. “Do they then go to an alternative provider who doesn’t provide vaccines, in which case there’s never the opportunity to vaccinate those children, or do they go ahead and get their child vaccinated? We don’t know.”
Not all doctors are taking such a hardline stand.
“For these physicians, what I’m hearing them say is they strongly feel not immunizing their children is such a great risk that they’re taking a stand,” Dr. H. Dele Davies, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee on infectious diseases, told HealthDay.
Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discourage the practice of refusing unvaccinated patients, instead urging doctors to build a relationship with skeptical parents that could convince them of the need to vaccinate their kids.
The study is published in the journal Pediatrics.