A new U.S. study revealed 21 percent of pediatricians in the country refuse to treat unvaccinated children, a practice most common in states that allow families to waive vaccinations due to religious beliefs and personal preferences.
Lead author Dr. Sean O'Leary from the Children's Hospital Colorado in Denver said this refusal is common among doctors in the Northeast and the South. O'Leary is a specialist in pediatric infectious disease.
"Even though the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages providers from dismissing families, some providers continue to do so. 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.
The survey involved 815 pediatric doctors and family physicians in 2012. Nearly 66 percent of the doctors participated in the survey. The study revealed that every month, 83 percent of pediatric doctors come across families who refuse vaccinations. Whenever this scenario arises, four percent of family doctors and 21 percent of pediatric doctors shared that they 'often' dismiss the families. Notably, 11 percent of the doctors said the number of parents who waive vaccinations for their children had increased since last year.
Currently, there are 20 states in the U.S. where the law allows parents to waive mandatory children's vaccinations for philosophical reasons. In 2016, Vermont and California will no longer be part of this list when recently passed laws kick in.
Based on statistics from state health department, during the 2007-2008 school year, there were 10,400 and 1,100 unvaccinated school children in Texas and Harris Country respectively. During the 2013-2014 school year, the numbers rose to 38,000 (Texas) and 5,000 (Harris County).
The practice has raised many concerns in recent years. The 2015 measles outbreak from Disneyland to various states had revived a disease which had been eliminated from the country since 2000. The resurrection of the disease has been linked to the expanding anti-vaccination movement in recent years.
The study was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The research pioneered the detailed examination of the refusal practice since the 2005 CDC-published guidelines discouraged such actions. The CDC reiterated the guidelines in 2013 where they recommend pediatric doctors not to dismiss patients.
The researchers published their findings in the Pediatrics journal on Nov. 2, 2015.