baby shotIn light of the recent highly contagious measles outbreak, a prominent pediatrician wrote a piece for Slate about whether or not children's doctor's offices should treat unvaccinated children. The doctor writes that he profoundly believes in "caring for all people who need [him]," but says at the same time, he "profoundly believes in the importance of vaccines."

"Personally, I draw the line at vaccines protecting against diseases that kids might catch from exposures in my office," Dr. Sydney Spiesel writes. "If parents want to withhold protection from hepatitis B or cervical and oral cancer, I think it’s not so smart, but I’ll still care for their children because not even the friskiest teen is likely to transmit these diseases in my office. Measles? Whopping cough? These are another matter. My sense of responsibility to the health of the vast majority of kids coming to see me says 'no.'"

When I first read the piece, I, a parent who chooses to vaccinate, thought the idea of having separate "vaccinated" and "non-vaccinated" pediatric offices was insane, close-minded, and antiquated. Who are doctors to tell parents how to raise their children? But then I thought: What if I had a 2-week-old infant, measles was going around, and I had a chance to go to either an office that only accepts vaccinated children or one that doesn't? I would certainly, for my newborn's safety, choose the former.

Although it seems ridiculous when written out, and uncomfortably segregated-seeming, it makes sense. Not only is it looking out for the overall health of the masses, particularly during an outbreak, it's the doctor's decision. He or she should do what they think is best for their patients, and if he thinks separating children is right, so be it. I don't blindly follow whatever my doctor tells me, but that is something I'm comfortable with.

Like Spiesel says, though, it isn't a completely black and white situation. Allowing babies and toddlers who haven't had their hep B shots into a "vax" office isn't so much the issue. I, personally, wouldn't be alarmed if my daughter were around someone her age without those shots (and she didn't get the hep B vax when she was still in the hospital). But on the other hand, I would be a little freaked out if she were to be around someone without a measles shot right now. So, I guess I would feel more comfortable if our pediatrician had rules as to who she will and won't treat in her office. I feel a little bad saying it, but it's the truth.

Do you think doctors should treat children who haven't been vaccinated for highly contagious diseases? Would you feel comfortable having your child around such children?

 

Image via IAN HOOTON/Science Photo Library/Corbis