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The debate over child vaccinations is dividing parents.

Should Doctors Accept Unvaccinated Children as Patient? Forty-one percent of parents may seek new provider because of unvaccinated children at their doctor’s office

COLUMBIA, S.C. — To vaccinate or not to vaccinate is still the question.

One side sees vaccinations as potentially harmful to children and the other side sees endangerment to the health of the community.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention statistics show most American children receive recommended vaccines protecting them from dangerous illnesses like measles and whooping cough. However, doctors sometimes care for children whose parents refuse vaccines against providers' recommendations.

Pediatricians strive to keep children healthy through regular well-child care and this includes encouraging families to follow recommended vaccine schedules. Doctors do care for children whose parents refuse vaccines against providers' recommendations. When a family refuses all childhood vaccines, it can put medical providers in a challenging position

Prisma Health Children’s Hospital, Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist, Anna -Kathryn Rye Burch, M.D. explains, “There are patients out there who are not immunized, and they have to have a doctor out there somewhere, each individual doctor or practice typically has a policy whether or not they will see unvaccinated children and adults.”  

This is concerning to many parents, suggests a recent poll on Children's Health at the University of Michigan. Four in 10 parents say they are very or somewhat likely to move their child to a different provider if their doctor sees families who refuse all childhood vaccines.

Parents rather not put their children at risk of catching a potentially harmful and contagious disease, such as measles, pertussis and chicken pox. This can be especially risky exposure for vulnerable populations, including infants too young to receive vaccines, elderly patients, patients with weakened immune systems or pregnant women.

Children who skip vaccines also pose a risk of transmitting diseases to other patients.

Dr. Rye Burch, M.D. goes on to say, “If you have somebody  around you who is sick with the measles, we know that is highly contagious , so if an unvaccinated person is around somebody who has the measles they have up to a 90% chance of contracting the measles from that person so it can make a big difference whether or not you are vaccinated.”

The survey shows parents are also divided in their views on what those policies should be and whether parents should be notified that there are children in the practice whose parents have refused all vaccines.

Seventeen percent say a completely unvaccinated child should not be allowed use the waiting room, and 27% say unvaccinated children should wear masks in the waiting room to protect the most vulnerable patients. The remaining 28% of parents say the primary care office should allow the unvaccinated child to continue getting care with no restrictions.

About 4 in 10 parents (43%) say they would want to know if there were other children at their child’s primary care office whose parents had refused all vaccines while 33% say they would not want to know. If there were other children in the office whose parents had refused all vaccines, 12% of parents say they are very likely and 29% somewhat likely to move their own child to a different health care provider.

Doctors say child health providers will have multiple discussions with parents to explain the importance of childhood vaccinations, and to answer any questions the parents have about possible side effects. But many parents and guardians do know to ask about the vaccine policy of the practice.

Dr. Rye Burch, M.D suggests, “ First I would ask what is the policy of the practice you are going to , do they see children who are immunized or un-immunized and then secondly I would see if they have waiting rooms that are for well patients or sick patients or have an infant you are taking to the doctor for the well-child visit . Obviously, you would want to sit in a room were everyone else is well and not sick because that decreases your risk of getting sick.

If you are a parent who is still undecided about your position regarding vaccinating your child, Dr. Rye Burch, M.D says to arm yourself with information from credible sources, “I would say educate yourself with trust worthy information. Vaccines are not harmful they do not cause autism they protect your child from getting sick. And these vaccine preventable diseases we are seeing now come back in America.”

For More information:

What to do with unvaccinated children in the doctor's office?

Centers for Disease Control Vaccine information page

Dr. Anna Kathryn Rye Bunch, Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist