Canadian pediatricians booting out children of anti-vaxers

Pediatricians in Canada discharging unvaccinated children.

Pediatricians in Canada are starting to discharge children whose parents refuse to have them vaccinated.

More and more, doctors are taking a stand when their medical advice is being ignored, said Dr. Hirotaka Yamashiro, chair of the pediatrics section for the Ontario Medical Association and president of the Pediatricians Alliance of Ontario.

“There have been some pediatricians who are very concerned about that, and may not take on the patient in the beginning,” Yamashiro said. “If you are going to fundamentally disagree with one of the things I think is good for your child, what else are we going to have a problem with?”

Yamashiro estimates that one in 25 to 30 parents in Ontario refuse immunizations for their child, or place their child on a modified vaccine schedule. He adds that one in eight to 10 parents express concerns over how vaccines may affect their child.

“It’s a big problem because…you’re leading to more and more unimmunized children,” Yamashiro said. “If this movement is allowed to fester, it’s like a wound. If you allow it to sort of grow, then you’re going to start affecting everybody’s health.”


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This is controversial, for sure. When do doctors give up on such parents? As Dr. Yamashiro notes, if you would go against your doctor on something as important as vaccines, which has iron clad benefits, what else would you be against? Skipping necessary surgery? Ask for homeopathy? The doctor is the expert, not parents, when it comes to sound medical advice.

Vaccines work. And we are paying a price for parents who think they know better than medical professionals about childhood disease prevention – outbreaks of measles, deaths from pertussis.

Having nonvaccinated kids in an office can help spread infections for children and other family members where the immunization benefits did not work (or others who were not vaccinated). We have a serious problem here. Is booting out patients with difficult parents the answer? Maybe better education and communication come first. But, I suppose there is time to draw the line.

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  5 comments for “Canadian pediatricians booting out children of anti-vaxers

  1. April 25, 2012 at 2:47 PM

    Although I am retired from clinical practice it’s an issue that came up while I was still seeing patients. Back then I was more lenient than I would be now. I would keep patients who didn’t follow my medical advise in the hope I might eventually be able to convince them of the wisdom of vaccinations, stopping tobacco use, losing weight, etc.

    One big difference between the vaccinations and the other recommendations is that smoking wouldn’t harm any of the patients in the waiting room while not vaccinating your child could.

    If I were in practice now I probably wouldn’t keep as patients child with parents who didn’t follow the vaccination schedule. Their reasoning is faulty and reflects a lack of understanding of how the immune system works. They are also selfish in that their kids are benefiting from the other children who are vaccinated.

    I realize that medical recommendations change and some of the recommendations from when I was in practice have been proven wrong. But they were based on the best scientific knowledge of the time.

    One of the strengths of Western medicine is the constant re-evaluation of what is considered the proper way to practice. Alternative approaches don’t do that. I have challenged many a believer in alternative approaches to show me one case where alternative practitioners have decided by scientific studies one of their treatments is effective and so they stopped using it.

    Rich Sagall, MD

    • April 25, 2012 at 7:36 PM

      Thanks for your input. How would you have approached the parents concerns? They get all this info off the internet. How can you counter that emotional ploy and “mommy instinct” bullcrap?

      • April 25, 2012 at 7:50 PM

        The best approach is to explain the concepet of relative risk. I would ask the parents if they know what they do just about every day that puts their kids at a much greater risk than immunizations or just about anything they do?

        The answer is “take their child for a ride in the car.” It’s much riskier than any side-effects from the immunizations.

        I don’t buy “mommy instinct” or “parents know best.” Tell that to an abused child – did their parents know best? It’s hard to know how critical to get – it often doesn’t pay. I would say that my kids were immunized and I would do that again. I get immunizations because they work.

        I admit that nothing is perfect and immunizations don’t “take” for everyone and some people do have side-effects. But then more kids die from preventable diseases than from vaccinations.

  2. oldebabe
    May 1, 2012 at 11:21 AM

    Is it just the children? Aren’t we all needing to at least update/upgrade our measles etc. vaccinations as we age?

    • May 1, 2012 at 11:33 AM

      I don’t have the updated vaccination schedule in front of me. But “yes,” we are discovering that for certain diseases an adult booster is needed. This shouldn’t be viewed as a failure of vaccines, just another step in the learning process.

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