Part of a small but growing trend, one of Roanoke, Va.'s, largest pediatric practices has become one of the first to adopt a strict policy against treating unvaccinated children. Although the American Academy of Pediatrics, which supports universal immunization, has urged pediatricians to "avoid discharging patients from their practices solely because a parent refuses to immunize his or her child," recent local outbreaks of pertussis and measles swayed the Virginia practice to stiffen its rules.
Thus, Physicians for Children posted the following vaccine policy statement on its website Sept. 7: "We firmly believe that vaccinating children and young adults may be the single most important health-promoting intervention we perform as Pediatricians and that you can perform as parents/caregivers.... We firmly believe in the effectiveness of vaccines to prevent serious illness and save lives. We firmly believe in the safety of our vaccines and their components.... Furthermore, should you decide to refuse or significantly delay vaccines for your child, this may result in dismissal from Physicians to Children."
The practice will, however, still see patients who are not immunized for medical reasons, such as cancer patients, the Roanoke Times reports. In addition, doctors will try to educate parents before dismissing their children from the practice, Dr. Robert Gard, one of the practice's physicians, told the newspaper.
In a Sept. 1 interview about the nationwide controversy, pediatrician Dr. Lisa Thornton told MSNBC that it's important to note that pediatricians are not abandoning unvaccinated children. "I've talked to a few of them. They spend hours with parents who don't want to immunize explaining the science and the truth about immunizations," she said. "They're not just turning people away...they're engaging parents. But if at the end of that lengthy discussion [there's no agreement], then they decide that's not a good fit."
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