Dr Manny's Notes

Should physicians ‘fire’ patients for not getting vaccinated?



An article published Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal charts a growing trend of physicians ‘firing’ patients from their practice, if the parent refuses to vaccinate their child.

According to the Wall Street Journal, in a study of Connecticut pediatricians published last year, approximately 30 percent of 133 doctors said they had asked a family to leave their practice for vaccine refusal.  Similarly, a recent survey of 909 Midwestern pediatricians found 21 percent had done the same.

This is a marked increase over 2001 and 2006, during which about six percent of physicians said they "routinely" stopped working with families due to parents' continued vaccine refusal and 16 percent "sometimes" dismissed them, according to surveys conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

The issue has naturally sparked discussion about what exactly doctors responsibilities are to their patients.  Personally, I think that firing parents who refuse to vaccinate their children is the wrong thing to do.

In this particular case, the physicians are acting just as stubbornly as parents are and the one who suffers most at the end is the child.

Rather than firing patients from practice, it would instead be a better practice for pediatricians to attempt to educate parents on the truths and myths surround vaccination.

I know firsthand many parents can be difficult when it comes to their beliefs regarding vaccinations causing disease or learning disorders.

However, it is critically important to find ways to help these parents understand pediatricians’ recommendations and their primary goal – to prevent disease through vaccination.

Physicians should work together to create protocols of education and counseling if the family comes to a pediatrician’s office and refuses to vaccinate their child. Maybe the physician can recommend the family see another doctor and get second opinion, so parents understand there is a widely-accepted, clinical logic in vaccination.

But I think to simply fire patients sends the wrong message to the public and certainly does not move our ultimate agenda forward in protecting children from disease.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.