Bioethics Blogs

What should docs do with parents who don’t vaccinate?

by Jenna Lillemoe, B.A.
by Arthur Caplan , Ph.D.

This year has marked the largest measles outbreak in decades with over 102 cases documented since December. This outbreak is a product of the anti-vaccination trend that has dramatically decreased vaccination compliance rates in children. Parents no longer follow the guidance of their pediatricians or believe the scientific evidence that vaccinations work without adverse effects. Pediatricians and family medicine physicians are then tasked with caring for these unvaccinated children. Because there is no set policy of how to manage caring for non-vaccinated children, we were interested in attempting to critically analyze how physicians manage non-vaccinated children.

In July 2014, a survey was distributed electronically to pediatricians and family medicine physicians to assess the frequency with which physicians interact with families who choose not to vaccinate and to uncover the conversations that take place between physicians and parents about vaccine refusal. We reached out to each state director of American Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Family Medicine and invited them to invite their members to participate in this IRB approved study. Many doctors agreed to participate and we gathered 539 responses by October 2014 from Maine, Oklahoma, New Jersey, Utah, New York, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, New Mexico, Texas, and Florida. 53% of respondents were pediatricians and 47% were family medicine physicians; 57% were female and 43% were male.

Of the respondents, 86% reported that they had parents refuse one or more CDC-recommended childhood vaccination in the past three years. These physicians were then asked to disclose more information about the conversations with the parents.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.