Thursday, February 16th, 2012
A growing number of pediatricians are refusing to treat families who choose not to vaccinate their children, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
Medical associations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics don’t recommend that doctors “fire” families who opt out of vaccines. Instead they encourage pediatricians to bring the topic up at multiple visits but continue to work with families. Yet research shows that it’s increasingly common for practices to push these patients out.
From the Wall Street Journal:
In a study of Connecticut pediatricians published last year, some 30% of 133 doctors said they had asked a family to leave their practice for vaccine refusal, and a recent survey of 909 Midwestern pediatricians found that 21% reported discharging families for the same reason.
By comparison, in 2001 and 2006 about 6% of physicians said they “routinely” stopped working with families due to parents’ continued vaccine refusal and 16% “sometimes” dismissed them, according to surveys conducted then by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Many pediatricians see administering vaccines as one of their main duties in keeping children healthy, and say it’s difficult to work with families when parents and doctors don’t see eye-to-eye on this key issue.
Pediatrician Allan LaReaux of Kalamazoo, Mich., stopped treating non-vaccinating families in 2010, in part because he worries that children who have not been immunized could make others in the waiting room sick. From the Journal:
“You feel badly about losing a nice family from the practice,” [said] Dr. LaReau, but families who refused to vaccinate their kids were told that “this is going to be a difficult relationship without this core part of pediatrics.” Some families chose to go elsewhere while others agreed to have their kids inoculated.
Pamela Felice, an Atlanta mom whose family was dismissed by their pediatrician for refusing vaccines says it’s been difficult to find another doctor. One of her children has gastrointestinal problems and regressed development that she believes is related to immunizations. At least four practices have denied them a first appointment when Felice explains her opposition to vaccines.
What do you think? Do doctors have a responsibility to treat patients even if they refuse vaccines?
Image: Doctor, baby and mom via Shutterstock.
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Thursday, January 26th, 2012
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that common environmental toxins, particularly perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) that are found in food packaging, stain-resistant carpets, and nonstick pans, can reduce the extent to which vaccines protect children from diseases including tetanus and diphtheria.
The study followed 600 children on the Faroe Islands in the Norwegian Sea, according to The Boston Globe’s Daily Dose blog:
Levels of PFCs found in the Faroe children (who consume high levels of seafood associated with increased PFC exposure), he added, are similar to those found in American children, but it’s not known whether the same effect occurs with other vaccinations. “We’re not worried about kids coming down with diphtheria or tetanus, which are rare,” Grandjean said, “but the chemical might very well be interfering with other immunizations.”
There’s certainly no reason for parents to panic over the finding, said Dr. Rick Malley, an infectious disease expert at Children’s Hospital Boston who wasn’t involved with the research. “I would say it’s an elegant study and it’s provocative, but it’s just showing an association, not a cause and effect.” The study design, he added, doesn’t tell us whether PFCs actually lower the effectiveness of vaccines or whether kids with high PFC levels have something else that’s interfering with their immune response.
What’s more, other things interfere with immunizations. A 2009 clinical trial published in Lancet found that administering acetaminophen to infants before vaccinations led to fewer fevers and febrile seizures but also reduced the immune response to common vaccines, which has led many pediatricians to stop recommending that parents give a dose of Tylenol to babies before vaccinations.
That said, PFCs could become the next bisphenol A — a chemical once ubiquitous in baby bottles until studies linked high levels to increased risks of cancer, sexual dysfunction, and heart disease. Now it’s hard to find a baby bottle that isn’t labeled BPA-free.
Image: Child getting a vaccine, via Shutterstock.
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Monday, January 9th, 2012
Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the author of a controversial 1998 medical journal article that alleged that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine can cause autism, is suing the British Medical Journal for a series of articles that he says “defamed” him by suggesting that he misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients involved in the 1998 study, CNN.com reports.
The study touched off a years-long debate that still rages in some circles, between those who believe vaccines including the MMR are responsible for the rising number of autism diagnoses in the U.S., and those who believe that there is no scientific basis for such a claim.
The Lancet, the journal that had published the original 1998 study, retracted it in 2010, explaining that parts of it were “incorrect.” Wakefield subsequently lost his medical license. In his lawsuit against the British Medical Journal, Wakefield defends his methods and denies falsifying or altering any data in his study.
For more on autism, explore Parents.com’s Autism Resource Guide.
Image: Medical journal, via Shutterstock.
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