Parents refuse vaccines, doctors refuse patients

More parents are refusing or delaying immunizations for their child, and, in turn, more physicians are dismissing those patients from their practice.

And the American Academy of Pediatrics this summer said for the first time that dismissing families who refuse to vaccinate is an “acceptable option.”

“The decision to dismiss a family who continues to refuse immunization is not one that should be made lightly, nor should it be made without considering and respecting the reasons for the parents’ point of view,” according to an academy clinical report. “Nevertheless, the individual pediatrician may consider dismissal of families who refuse vaccination as an acceptable option.”

The academy reports that increasing numbers of people are requesting alternative vaccination schedules or postponing or declining vaccination all together.

In a 2010 survey of 1,500 parents of children 6 to 23 months old, about 3 percent of respondents had refused all vaccines and more than 19 percent had refused or delayed at least one of the recommended childhood vaccines.

An American Academy of Pediatrics study from 2006 found that 75 percent of pediatricians had encountered parents who refused a vaccine. In 2013, that number was up to 87 percent.

The number of parents who refused one or more vaccines increased from 9 percent in 2006 to nearly 17 percent in 2013, according to the academy.

The top reasons parents gave for refusing vaccines were that they believed the vaccines were unnecessary and they had concerns about autism.

A variety of other studies have looked at why parents are “vaccine hesitant.” Among those:

-44 percent of parents were concerned about the pain associated with receiving multiple injections during one visit.

-34 percent were uneasy about administering so many vaccines at one visit.

-26 percent worried about vaccines causing autism.

-14 percent were worried vaccines could lead to chronic illnesses.

-13 percent thought vaccines weren’t tested enough for safety.

The academy recommends doctors use evidence-based research to address these parental concerns. One study by the pediatric academy found that nearly 80 percent of parents’ decisions to vaccine were positively influenced by their provider.

“A well-informed pediatrician who effectively addresses parental concerns and strongly supports the benefits of vaccination has enormous influence on parental vaccine acceptance,” according to the academy.

Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at or 360-735-4546.

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