Vaccination is a hot topic of controversy, to say the very least. But if patients refuse to get vaccinated against preventable diseases such as measles and mumps, some doctors will go as far as to dismiss the families from their practices.
“Even though the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages providers from dismissing families, some providers continue to do so,” Sean O’Leary, MD, MPH, one of the researchers on the University of Colorado School of Medicine team, said in a news release.
From June to October 2012, a total of 534 pediatricians and family physicians were surveyed on their patient interactions. Of those, 83% reported that in any given month, at least 1% of parents refuse to get one or more vaccines for their child – 20% said that they encounter more than 5% in a month.
In this situation, 21% of pediatricians and 4% of family physicians always or often times dismiss the family.
The analysis filed physicians by region – Northeast, South, Midwest, and West. Those in the South were more likely to say goodbye to vaccine-refusing patients. In addition, physicians in urban, non-inner city/suburban were more likely to dismiss families when compared to those in inner cities and rural areas.
According to the report in Pediatrics, the practice was more common in private practices as opposed to community/hospital based or other health organizations. The authors said that this is not necessarily surprising since physicians may not be allowed to dismiss patients in these settings.
While doctors have different ways to handle patients who choose not to vaccinate their children, is dismissing them the “right” approach?
“Instead of dismissing families, we need a better understanding of the reasons for vaccine refusal to find evidence-based strategies for communication that are effective at convincing hesitant parents to vaccinate,” said O’Leary, an associate professor of pediatrics at the school.
One of the reasons that parents stray away from vaccines is the belief that they are linked to autism – regardless of the fact that it has never been scientifically proven. During the first Republican presidential debate back in September, candidate Donald Trump suggested spacing out vaccination doses to make the practice safer – which the American Association of Pediatrics shut down by responding that that would leave the child at risk for disease.
Moving forward, it may not be a matter of deciding if dismissing those who refuse vaccination is the proper response. But, as O’Leary said, it is important to understand why parents do this and learn what can be done to show them the error of their ways.