Most of us have been there before: physically restraining our squirmy toddler at the pediatrician’s office as he gets injected with his scheduled vaccination (like measles, mumps and rubella, for example). It  sucks but, hey, the whole thing lasts for maybe two seconds – and then you’re done for at least another year.

Some parents, however, simply choose not to vaccinate their kids against common childhood diseases because they think it’s unsafe. Diane Massey is one such parent. The 33-year-old Toronto-based chiropractor did not have her 2-year-old son, Dylan, vaccinated against chickenpox because it’s a benign disease. And, when H1N1 (aka swine flu) came to Canada last summer, she opted out of that vaccine, too, amidst the mass hysteria (she questioned the adjuvants and other chemicals involved).

“Based on my understanding of how the immune system works and how vaccines work, I’m uncomfortable with putting so many diseases into the body at once,” says Massey. “When in nature are we asked to mount an immune response to measles, mumps and rubella at the exact same time? And then sometimes two shots are recommended at the same visit? Seems excessive to me.”

Massey is not alone in her beliefs. Google “vaccination risks” and you’ll get millions of websites listing some pretty scary information on the dangers of vaccinations (there’s even a Vaccination Awareness Risk Network founded by parents whose children have suffered vaccine reactions and injuries). But most doctors would tell you that the benefits of getting your children vaccinated far outweigh the risks.

In fact, a group of frustrated pediatricians in Chicago is requiring parents in their practices to vaccinate their children or seek health care elsewhere, reports The Chicago Tribune. Eight pediatricians of the Northwestern Children’s Practice in Chicago will no longer see children whose parents refuse to follow the childhood immunization schedule developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics, according to the report. The policy went into effect in June.

One of the pediatricians, Dr. Scott Goldstein, told The Chicago Tribune:

“All of the available research shows that the safest and most effective way to vaccinate children is on the schedule set by the CDC and AAP. To go against that schedule goes against proven scientific research and puts patients who do follow the schedule at risk.”

He says that less than a dozen families have chosen to leave the practice, which boasts more than 5,000 patients. If Massey were one of them, she would no doubt leave. “

[My own pediatrician]

would prefer I was more compliant but she seems to tolerate me,” she says. As for the situation in Chicago, Massey finds it horrifying. “We cannot force people to take drugs and medication. We must have the right to choose for ourselves and our children. A doctor can guide, advise, even strongly recommend. But to refuse care is bullying and not in the best interest of the patient.”

Massey is aware that some people might be critical of her choices (these are the ones who feel we have a moral obligation to vaccinate our kids so that they don’t infect others around them). But she still stands her ground. “I have a moral obligation to do what’s best for my child,” she says. “I appreciate the concept of herd immunity and happen to believe that we are generally better for mass immunizations, but vaccinations are just one aspect of a healthy society, and I believe freedom is more important. We would all be healthier with better air quality if everyone rode bicycles instead of cars, but we don’t legislate it or even call it a moral issue.”

What do you think? Have these pediatricians gone too far or should parents be refused treatment if they refuse to vaccinate their children?

(Photo: Creatas Images)