Doctors are well aware of the potential risks that delaying vaccines can have, but, according to new research from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), most doctors are accommodating parents' requests to alter their child's vaccine schedule.
Although doctors agree that delaying or spacing out vaccines can increase their chance of contracting illnesses (like measles) and infecting others with these diseases, the importance of building parents' trust seems to override these negative consequences in many situations.
The study, published today in the journal of Pediatrics, surveyed 534 pediatricians to find out how often parents requested postponing vaccines for children under the age of 2, how pediatricians felt about these requests, and what methods they used to respond.
Nearly all pediatricians (93 percent) reported have been asked to delay vaccines at least once per month—of those pediatricians, one-third said they complied with parents' requests "often" or "always," and another third caved in "sometimes."
Most doctors complied with these requests in the hopes of building a better relationship with their family, and to avoid losing the child as a patient. "Parents hear a lot of frightening things about vaccines from family members, friends, and the media," says David Hill, M.D., a pediatrician in Wilmington, North Carolina and author of Dad to Dad: Parenting Like a Pro. "But I believe that the best way to protect children from disease is to vaccinate them on time and completely."
The AAP's' vaccine schedule, which was recently updated in late January, is compiled by a panel of 60 experts from the Advisory Community on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and details exactly when a child should get certain vaccines. "The schedule is designed very thoughtfully," explains Wendy Hunter, M.D., a pediatrician in San Diego and author of the Baby Science blog. "The timing of vaccinations is proven safe and effective when the schedule is followed."
And "going to a pediatrician is not like going to Starbucks," says Ari Brown, M.D., a pediatrician and Parents advisor who's also the author of the Baby 411 series. "If it feels that way, with parents ordering up their favorite shots and rejecting others, then they aren't taking advantage of the knowledge that's advocating for their child's health."
The AAP encourages pediatricians to continue working with reluctant parents, to educate and influence them to adhere to the vaccine schedule. Physicians can choose their own strategies to communicate with parents who are still uncertain about vaccines. "I find that given time to build a trusting relationship, we can usually work together to keep children as safe and healthy as possible," says Dr. Hill.
Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She's a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter:@CAITYstjohn
The Vaccine Schedule
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