By Erin Delmore
The doctor is in, but the patient is out if parents decide not to vaccinate their children. The American Academy of Pediatrics is standing by doctors, saying it’s “acceptable” for medical professionals to terminate their relationship with a family if they can’t be convinced to get their children vaccinated.
“They were answering the call and pleas of many, many pediatricians who were saying, ‘Please help us to work with the reluctant families,’” said Dr. Alla Gordina, pediatrician.
Gordina has been turning unvaccinated patients away from her general practice for around 20 years. As a specialist, she sees unvaccinated kids after hours, when the risk of transmission is lower.
“Initially I was trying to convince people I was working with — I literally was spending hours trying to convince them and everything, and they would give me a blank stare, the ‘no doctor, you can talk as much as you want, that’s our decision and we’re firm on it.’ and eventually I had to say, enough is enough,” Gordina said. “Some people would say that’s abandonment. The patient needs to have medical care. There are enough doctors around, in New Jersey at least, that would accept unvaccinated patients.”
“I can’t control in a playground because how [would I] know? [I can’t always ask parents, did you have a vaccination, or no?] But I’m sure about my kids,” said parent Olesia Sarakhman.
Nearly nine out of 10 doctors have been challenged by parents who won’t have their children immunized in the last year. That percentage has risen by more than 10 points in the last decade. Some vaccine-hesitant parents cite religious objections, others’ fears sparked by a discredited 1998 article linking vaccination to autism.
“It’s no longer, ‘I’m coming in. I don’t want that vaccine. I don’t care what you say.’ Now it’s ‘I heard this, what do you think, talk to me about it.’ They can have a vaccine today and come back, get another vaccine next month and those are things we’re willing to work with,” said Dr. Puthenmadam Radhakrishnan.
“Dr. Rad” sits on the board of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“The fact is that most pediatricians have always been on this page, that you know what, we care for our total population of children so we’re worried when there is one or two kids when they come in their parents don’t want immunizations for non-medical reasons and we’ve always counseled them, we’ve always taken the time out to talk to them, but we’re always scared that there’ll be a time when they’ll get sick and they’ll come in and then they’ll spread the disease around to other kids. So we’ve been asking for this from the APP for a while and we’re just happy we’re all on the same page now,” Radhakrishnan said.
Advocates say vaccines have become a victim of their own success: Because they’ve worked so well over the past few decades, parents are refusing to get their kids vaccinate because they haven’t seen the effects of the very illnesses they were vaccinated against.