If you read the news at all, I’m sure you are aware that there is a measles outbreak in NYC. As of last week, there’s a total of 19 confirmed patients with the highly contagious virus. A doctor weighed in on the outbreak in Slate today, wondering if he should start only treating vaccinated children. I think he may be on to something.
So here is where pediatricians find themselves: Even if we believe—as virtually all of us do—that immunization is tremendously important and valuable, what do we do about the parents who don’t want their kids to get vaccinated?
Personally, I draw the line at vaccines protecting against diseases that kids might catch from exposures in my office. If parents want to withhold protection from hepatitis B or cervical and oral cancer, I think it’s not so smart, but I’ll still care for their children because not even the friskiest teen is likely to transmit these diseases in my office.Measles? Whooping cough? These are another matter. My sense of responsibility to the health of the vast majority of kids coming to see me says “no.”
This sounds reasonable to me. You want your child to remain unvaccinated? Find a pediatrician who will treat him. Maybe the sheer inconvenience of having to search for medical doctors who actually believe vaccination against deadly disease should remain a person choice will convince these parents to make better decisions.
Clearly there is a part of this that feels like children would be punished for the bad decision-making of their parents. I hate the idea of that – but at the same time, parents who actually believe vaccinations are dangerous instead of one of the most amazing scientific accomplishments, ever – need to be dealt with somehow. These parents have reaped the health benefits of living in a time where they never had to deal with deadly outbreaks because of vaccinations, yet they still act like it’s their own amazing immunity that has accomplished this feat. It’s not. Vaccinations and herd-immunity have ensured you a safe, deadly disease-free environment in which to grow and thrive – an environment that you would deny your own children and future generations because of what? Conspiracy theories?
Will it take the sweeping return of diseases like whooping cough and measles to wake these parents up? I’m not willing to sacrifice years of built up herd immunity for these idiots. I’m sorry for their children – but I’m totally behind treating these individuals as what they are – a danger to public safety.