Pediatricians Push Back Against Anti-Vaxers

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

As the current measles outbreak prompts some parents to dig in their heels about not vaccinating their children, pediatricians are also standing their ground.

Pediatrician Dr. Charles Goodman in southern California decided this month to stop seeing children whose parents refuse to immunize them against preventable diseases such as measles and pertussis, and the American Academy of Pediatrics today urged parents to vaccinate their children on schedule rather than delaying or refusing shots.

"Some children cannot be vaccinated because of problems with their immune system, or because they are too young to be vaccinated," the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a statement. "It is heartbreaking to know that these vulnerable children may be at risk if parents refuse or delay getting their children vaccinated, allowing community immunization rates to fall below the rates necessary to protect the whole community."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 102 measles cases in 14 states tied to the California outbreak this month, and said most of those who became infected were not vaccinated. One of the latest measles patients is under a year old, and too young to receive the MMR vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella.

Goodman told ABC News that keeping unvaccinated children out of his waiting room will make it safer for other children, including those too young to get certain vaccines. He said that since he's decided to do this, he's helped a few patients find new doctors in the area, and convinced one family to immunize their child.

Since most parents simply delay vaccinations and don't outright say they won't get them, Goodman said he is identifying them as they come through his office for their appointments and offering them the chance to either catch up or find a new doctor.

"We really don't want to abandon them," Goodman said. "We have no ill will against them."

But while it's been drama-free in his office, the Internet is another story. People who are against vaccines have found him on Facebook and called his office to speak their minds. Although he said he responded to them with studies and science, he hasn't been able to convince them that vaccines are safe and life-saving.

"No amount of reason, argument, science or logic, no amount of that will change the minds of these staunch anti-vaxers," he said. "I'm not going to respond to them. It's a waste of time."

Dr. Stuart Cohen, a pediatrician at the University of California San Diego, doesn't take patients who aren't up to date on their vaccines either, he told ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser.

"Would you send your teen out to drive a car without wearing a seat belt? Would you go out on a boating trip with your family and decide who wants to wear a life jacket and who doesn't?" he asked on ABC News' This Week. "That's like playing Russian roulette."

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