By Dr. Dave Hnida

(CBS4) – Two important bits of news from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

First, a new study in the Journal Pediatrics shows that the number of parents who are refusing vaccines for their children continues to rise — and for a reason different that 10 years ago.

The major reasons for vaccine refusal then was a fear of autism, too much stress on the immune system, too many vaccines, and similar reasons. Those concerns have all been shown scientifically to be false.

The new reason, according to pediatricians, is that some parents are now shifting to the belief that vaccines aren’t really needed anymore.

And that is definitely not true. (Think of the recent outbreaks of measles and whooping cough).

In 2013, nine in 10 physicians said they had been rebuffed by certain parents in their practices when it came to routine immunizations, many simply because the parents felt immunizations were old-fashioned and unnecessary in today’s world. And that’s a major concern, especially since we know these childhood diseases can be deadly. But we also know they can be prevented with routine immunizations.

The second important piece of information from the Academy is a major guideline change about how to work with, and deal with, parents who refuse to immunize even after intensive advice and counselling.

The Academy says it would “be acceptable” to discharge that family from the practice. In other words, if you don’t immunize your child: goodbye.

Now that’s a guideline that sounds stark and brutal — after all, it is a parent’s right, within reason, to do what is best for their child. However, they also need to take into account the greater good of society (especially other children who go to school with their unvaccinated child) and the fact that the science and the numbers are simply not on their side. A lack of knowledge about the deadliness of these diseases is no longer an excuse, which is why the Academy says intensive counselling before discharge is necessary.

Continued refusal also brings up another point, a point about trust.

Sure, we all agree that medicine is a give and take. But immunizations are in a health care class by themselves — they a major part of prevention for ALL children — yet if a parent absolutely refuses to immunize despite a physician’s best efforts, it frankly does put a significant dent in the doctor-family relationship. As in “if you don’t trust me on this, how can you trust me on anything?”

One final  point. The Academy is now recommending that all non-medical exemptions for immunizations be eliminated in every state in America.

Dr. Dave Hnida is CBS4’s Medical Editor. He blogs about the latest studies and trends in the health world. Read his latest blog entries, check out his bio or follow him on Twitter @drdavehnida.


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