My Thoughts on Doctors Dismissing Vaccine-Refusing Patients/Parents

Earlier this spring, the Toronto Star published a piece about a local pediatrician who dismisses from her practice any patients whose parents refuse to immunize their child(ren).  (See this Interesting editorial published in response). This has also been an issue in the United States for a number of years.

I have been stewing over this for months and finally, this Father’s Day, have mustered up the guts to express some of my associated thoughts.  These views are neither comprehensive nor fully distilled, but I hope that sharing them here will get us all thinking about productive ways to solve the deeply concerning decade-long problem of falling vaccination rates.

  1. I find that just like parents who readily vaccinate their children, the vast majority of ‘vaccine-refusers’ are loving and caring parents who sincerely want what is best for their kids.  I don’t agree with their position on vaccines, but I do not doubt their love for and commitment to their children.  It is for this very reason that I can’t see eye-to-eye with doctors who dismiss these families from their practice.
  2. If parents want what’s best for their kids, and given that vaccinations are so important for the wellbeing of children and the community, then it follows that parents would choose to vaccinate their children if they were armed with the appropriate information. I see it as my job to facilitate parents obtaining this legitimate information.
  3. More and more, patients expect their physicians to earn their respect and trust.  We no longer live in times when doctors are considered all-knowing and fully trustworthy simply because they have an MD after their names.  I can understand a family choosing to hold off on a doctor’s recommendation in the spirit of first building a trusting and therapeutic relationship.  This can take weeks, months, or even years.  But, more often than not, once this relationship is healthily established, parents tend to reconsider their contrary views.
  4. The mandate of a physician goes far beyond giving vaccines.  Just because a given parent is ‘anti-vaccine’ does not mean that her views will be diametrically opposed to her physician’s on all other health matters. A parent’s poor (or uninformed) choice should not dis-entitle her child to the right to health care.
  5. We physicians and scientists have a big PR Problem. It is gravely concerning that for many families today (up to 25%!!), when it comes to the science of immunizations, Jenny McCarthy seems to have more credibility than medical scientists, international health organizations and history books rich with countless examples of the great health achievement that has been immunizations.
  6. Click here for a summary of vaccine-preventable illnesses that have occurred in the US over the past 5 years.
    Click here for a summary of vaccine-preventable deaths that have occurred in the US over the past 5 years.
    Click here for a curated list of sources that refute claims that Autism is associated with the administration of childhood vaccination
    *Please note – I do not think it is fair to Ms. McCarthy that this website implicates her, directly or indirectly, as responsible for all of this mortality and morbidity.  Nonetheless, the information shared on the site is compelling, credible and effectively presented.  

Do feel free to share your thoughts experiences and opinions below.