Should Pediatricians Blackmail Parents Into Vaccinating Kids?

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vaccinesThere comes a time in every child's life when she has to bid her pediatrician goodbye. But usually it isn't because your pediatrician is refusing to let your sick kid inside his office. A growing number of doctors are apparently striking children who haven't been vaccinated from their patient lists, and escorting them out the door.

The part of me that believes strongly in vaccinations to save lives wants to cheer for them. But there's this other part of me, the part that believes all kids deserve a chance at a healthy life, that thinks this is absolutely abhorrent. Hearing an 11-year-old lost her doctor because her parents don't want to get her the whooping cough vaccine gives me chills. If I promise not to bring up autism (Oops, just did, but not again. For realsies.), I think we can all get on the same page with this one -- vax and non-vaxxers alike.

The people who decide not to vaccinate their children have their reasons. Right or wrong, it's a parent's choice. Which means it's not the child's choice

But who gets punished when the doctor says, "Oh, your kid is coughing up phlegm and hasn't been able to keep down solids in three days? Sorry, she hasn't had her MMR, so she'll have to just suffer through"? Not the parents. Oh, yeah, they're scrambling around like the Ghostbusters wondering "who they're gonna call," but they're able to munch and crunch their lunch just fine. Meanwhile kiddo sits there pitifully trying to get a bowl of chicken noodle down while Mom pages through the Yellow Pages.

The pediatricians are trying to make a very valid point -- that everyone from the World Health Organization to the American Academy of Pediatrics to the CDC will tell you that vaccines save lives, and an un-vaccinated population puts other kids at risk. But you can't blackmail parents into listening to you, least of all by dangling a carrot as valuable as their child's well-being over their head.

I want to agree with these doctors, but by refusing sick kids service, they're failing the oath they took as doctors long ago: first do no harm.

Do you think the doctors are right?

 

Image via Andres Rueda/Flickr

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