South Carolina pediatrician turning away unvaccinated patients

A pediatric practice in South Carolina is reportedly turning away unvaccinated patients as part of a new policy that seeks to protect patients with a weakened immune system.

“Having unvaccinated children coming to a pediatric office where lots of children are at a very high-risk for contracting vaccine-related diseases just seems inappropriate,” Dr. Marc Bahan, a physician at CPG Pediatrics at Carolina Forest, told WMBF-TV. “We have patients on chemotherapy with cancer…. We have patients coming in here with severe congenital heart diseases. All of these patients can potentially die if they contract one of these diseases.”

Tamara Pickett, who told the news outlet that she chose CPG Pediatrics for her daughter because they accepted unvaccinated patients, said she has requested proof of the new policy after she was told they could not continue coming to the practice unless her child is vaccinated.

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The change in practice comes amid a reignited vaccination debate in the country as health officials scramble to address several measles outbreaks that have popped up in several states.

According to WMBF, the practice said their policy is in line with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines. In a previous statement on the AAP website, the group – together with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Family Physicians – said they “recommend all children receive the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine at age 12-15 months, and again at 4-6 years.

"High immunization rates in a community will protect those who cannot be vaccinated, including infants under 12 months of age. These infants are at the highest risk of serious illness, hospitalization and death due to measles.”

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Yvonne Maldonado, vice chair of the AAP committee on infectious diseases, said in the same statement that delaying vaccination “leaves children vulnerable to measles when it is most dangerous to their development, and it also affects the entire community.”

All 50 states have laws requiring specified vaccinations for students, but almost all allow for religious exemptions, and several grant philosophical exemptions. Several states are mulling a change to vaccination exemption policies in an effort to tamp down on the outbreaks.

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The highly contagious virus was eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, but recent outbreaks have tallied 159 cases across 10 states so far this year, with the vast majority occurring in unvaccinated patients. The virus poses the greatest risk to pregnant women, babies and people with weakened immune systems.