Doctors are Firing Patients for Refusing Vaccination

Doctors get rid of patients for missed appointments, rude or threatening behavior, and nonpayment of bills. More and more, there is a new reason.
American babies are now given 25 different vaccines in the first 15 months of life, including for Hepatitis B, which is a sexually transmitted disease in the United States. Some parents opt out of some or all of those shots. For that, they now risk being dismissed as a patient by their physician.

Anita Manning reports for USA Today, Nov. 14, 2011, that a survey of 900 pediatricians in 9 Midwestern states found that 21% have discharged families for refusing vaccination. About 60% said one in 20 families in their practice refused or requested altered vaccine schedules; 4% said a majority did.
The survey findings were reported last month at a meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, by Thomas Tryon, a pediatrician at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Mo.
Vaccine safety has been the subject of escalating controversy in recent years as the number of vaccines recommended for children increases and the diseases they prevent fade into the far reaches of memory. Some parents avoid giving their children some or all vaccines because they believe vaccines are linked to rising rates of developmental disorders such as autism or may cause other health problems.
Pediatricians spend a lot of time reassuring parents and referring them to information on the safety and value of vaccines, Tryon says, but when parents persist, doctors have to consider the safety of their other patients.
For years, Tryon says, he was flexible with parents concerned about vaccines. What changed his mind was a family that refused to vaccinate their toddler, then had a second baby. Both got pertussis, or whooping cough, which can be prevented by the DTaP (diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus) vaccine. “In an 18-month-old, pertussis is a bad disease,” he says. “In a 6-week-old, it could be fatal.”
He was frustrated not only because the illnesses could have been avoided, but also because the family had “exposed everyone in my waiting room.” At that point, he says, “I said I can’t take this risk anymore.”
He instituted a policy that if, after counseling and discussing scientific evidence on vaccine safety and protective benefits, parents still refuse vaccines, they’re out. He notifies them by mail and gives them 30 days to find a new pediatrician.
The sheer number of vaccines given to children — 25 shots in the first 15 months of life — has caused some parents to worry that so much stimulation could overwhelm young immune systems. But the American Academy of Pediatrics says that studies have shown those fears to be groundless, and that spreading out shots over a longer period of time leaves kids needlessly vulnerable to infectious diseases such as polio or measles.
Many doctors see the issue as a matter of public health and make their policies clear to new patients at the outset.
Pediatrician Raymond Cattaneo of Kansas City, Mo., has a strict immunization policy — no refusals and no alternative schedules.  Anything else, Cattaneo says, would be “allowing patients to decide something that was not right.” Although the policy met with some resistance, with a few patients being very upset — one family even called a local station, “overwhelmingly we were supported.”
But Barbara Loe Fisher, founder of the National Vaccine Information Center that supports the right to refuse vaccines, says that patients who disagree often feel demonized. “It’s hard to find someone who will talk now. They’re vilified and harassed.”
On the center’s website, there is a “vaccine freedom wall,” where parents post stories of “being thrown out of doctor’s offices or being harassed for trying to make informed decisions about vaccines,” she says. A Facebook page, Proud Parents of Unvaccinated Children, has more than 7,300 fans.
New York City pediatrician Lawrence Pavelsky works with families who have a child with chronic illness, to improve their health without pharmaceuticals. When patients come to him, he says, “we talk about nutrition, sleep, development, vaccines, ways in which kids get sick and why and how to get them well if they are sick” without using vaccines or medication. He believes doctors who vaccinate children are working from information that is simply wrong.
“I did my own research,” he says. “Over the last 14 years, I have found that some or even a majority of the information I was taught in medical school was either false, incomplete or had flawed reasoning.”
The American Medical Association has guidelines for when it’s appropriate for a doctor to dismiss a patient. A doctor cannot legally dismiss a patient for race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, HIV status or other category protected under anti-discrimination laws, or in the middle of ongoing care. The doctor must give written notice and continue care for a period, usually 30 days, during which the patient can find a new doctor.

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8 years ago

I get both sides of this. I can see why some parents opt out of some vaccinations for kids. I wouldn’t but then I opt out flu shots. I know two people that got terribly sick after the shots and don’t want that happen to me.
Why can’t sick kids just wear a mask at doctor’s office? Heck, there are plenty of other diseases in the waiting room as well!

Doc's Wife
Doc's Wife
8 years ago

As an overprotective Nana to our only grandson, I have seen the ugly side of a pediatrician. She was actually a friend of my husband’s, but she and I came to blows on the second visit. My daughter just sat there stunned. We did not want immunizations, and this woman proceeded to chew me out and said my husband did not know anything about the shots since he only gave flu and tetanus shots. Needless to say, we found a compassionate MD who honors our wishes.

8 years ago

A great thing to say to the vaccine-pushers is to ask them to sign a contract stating that they will personally be willing to pay for the medical expenses incurrred as a result of vaccine injury. Since they are so strongly advocating that people follow a reckless vaccine schedule, then they should put their money where their mouthes are or STFU. Doctors refuse to look into vaccine safety the same way they refused to look at the cancer – female hormone replacement therapy link. Then, when the evidence was SO OVERWHELMING that it could no longer be denied (out of… Read more »

8 years ago

Like Sage, my dearest friend in the world, Bucky Boy, my beautiful cat (he died and it broke my heart), also had complications with vaccinations. The doctor is not the parent of the child. It is absolutely ludicrous to provide 25 immunizations to a child in the first fifteen months of life, including those that address sexual transmitted diseases! What would be the purpose of that! Parents have the right to determine the merits and use their heads when it comes to their children. Doctors are not little gods, who, because of their expertise, dictate choices of parents. Ridiculous!

Doc's Wife
Doc's Wife
8 years ago

Sage–my husband read in a medical journal quite a few years ago that the same immunization results could be gotten by simply putting a tiny amount of a vaccine sub-cutaneous on a person. This supposedly gave the same results as massive quantities injected. Wonder why drug companies do not want this known??? My husband gives our chidren flu shots this way to avoid reactions.

8 years ago

Great post! I agree with all the above comments — this response by doctors seems like a ploy to force parents to vaccinate. With all the drug recalls that have happened to date, why is it impossible for people to imagine that vaccines may not always be the safest option?