One in Five Pediatricians Dismiss Families Who Refuse Vaccines

HealthDay News — About 20% of U.S. pediatricians regularly drop families who refuse to have their children vaccinated, according to a report published online in Pediatrics.

Doctors in the South and Northeast were more likely to take this stance, lead author Sean O’Leary, MD, MPH, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Denver, told HealthDay. The researchers conducted a survey of 815 pediatricians and family physicians in 2012. About 66% of the doctors responded to the survey.

According to the researchers, those surveyed said it’s generally rare for a parent to refuse a vaccination for their child. Overall, 83% of doctors reported that 1% or fewer parents refuse one or more infant vaccines in a typical month. When that happens, 21% of pediatricians and 4% of family physicians said they “always” or “often” dismiss families. Pediatricians likely to dismiss families over vaccination are nearly five times more likely to be in private practice, and four times more likely to be from the South or a state that does not allow philosophical exemptions from vaccination.

But O’Leary said he’s heard anecdotally that pediatricians across the nation have come under pressure to refuse to take on unvaccinated children, following the Disneyland measles outbreak that occurred earlier this year.

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“I’m hearing the practice has become more common, particularly in California, following the outbreak,” O’Leary said. “Parents say, ‘I don’t want to take my child to a clinic with non-vaccinators and expose them to risk,’ so there is parental pressure on some pediatricians.”


1.  O’Leary ST, Allison MA, Fisher A, et al. Characteristics of Physicians Who Dismiss Families for Refusing Vaccines. Pediatrics. 2015; doi:peds.2015-2086