Parents who don’t want to vaccinate their children are a perennial sore subject in my profession. The question bubbled up again this spring at the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Annual Leadership Forum, where academy leaders vote on issues of concern to pediatricians across the country. Two of the top three resolutions this year were about vaccine refusal. ... The other asked the academy to support “pediatricians who decide to discharge patients after a reasonable, finite amount of time working with parents who refuse to immunize their children according to the recommended schedule, or who fail to abide by an agreed-upon, recommended catch-up schedule.” Although the resolution met with general approval at the meeting, there was opposition from some bioethicists present. Dr. John Lantos, a pediatrician who is the director of the Children’s Mercy Bioethics Center in Kansas City, argued that the current A.A.P. statement strikes the correct balance in encouraging pediatricians to keep talking to “vaccine hesitant” parents: “Try hard to work with people.” Most pediatricians have seen at least some of the diseases that vaccines protect against, from whooping cough to meningitis to the really bad cases of influenza and rotavirus. The children who aren’t protected worry us, because they make us feel we aren’t doing our job of keeping them safe in a world that is a much better and safer place to grow up — because of vaccines.
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