Skeptical Raptor's Blog hunting pseudoscience in the internet jungle

Doctors should stop asking parents’ opinions on vaccines

vaccination-victorThe results from a new study published in Pediatrics claimed that physicians should stop allowing parents to feel like vaccinations is their decision, in order to convince parents to get their kids vaccinated. According to the study, when doctors spoke to parents about vaccinations, under the assumption that the parents would opt for it for their children, using language such as “well, now we have to do some shots,” the doctors encountered less resistance, even from so-called vaccine-hesitant parents.

However, if the physicians framed it more like a choice, asking parents whether or not they want to vaccinate their baby, those parents are more likely to be more resistant to immunization.

Even if these parents initially expressed resistance to vaccines, medical professionals can still prevail if they immediately and firmly stand their ground on the importance of vaccination. The study found that when doctors or nurse practitioners pushed the issue, and pointed out the benefits of the vaccines and clearly presenting the low amount or ridiculousness of risks, almost half of vaccine-hesitant parents ended up vaccinating their children. The researchers determined that about half of the healthcare providers in the study did not push vaccination after initial rejection of the shots by these parents.

The researchers decided to examine healthcare provider roles in the decision process for vaccines as a result of the “increasing number of parents who have worries about childhood vaccinations.” Even though the reasons for vaccinating children are overwhelming, and includes saving their lives, and even though the CDC has repeatedly reassured parents that the recommended vaccine schedule is utterly safe, there seems to be a steady (albeit low level) of resistance to vaccinating children.

And as I have written on a number of occasions vaccine denialism has serious consequences for the general health of children. Even though nearly 95% of children are fully immunized according to the CDC schedule prior to entering kindergarten, there are several pockets of unvaccinated children which can be ground zero for the spread of deadly vaccine-preventable diseases, such as what was observed with a large whooping cough (Bordetella pertussis) epidemic in California in 2010. 

Recently, scientists have observed that a lingering resistance to either MMR (for measlesmumps and rubella), or MMRV (for MMR plus chickenpox) vaccinations (based on the lie that MMR vaccines cause autism–it doesn’t) is helping measles, a disease that public health officials once considered to be virtually eradicated, make a small but significant comeback. Sadly, the vaccine refusers have a direct and short-term negative impact on children–90 percent of the kids who ended up dying from influenza hadn’t gotten vaccinated for it.

This study provides us with clear evidence that physicians and other healthcare workers have serious influence over the decision process to vaccinate children. I could speculate that parents want to hear from the expert–their family physician. But if that doctor dithers in his recommendation, then the parent will take that dithering as a sign that there’s something wrong with the vaccine.

And let me make this clear: a physician has years of education and knowledge, far above the few minutes using Google to find some nonexistent debate about vaccines (there is no debate, they are safe and effective, based on real science). Physicians are actually an authority, and are obligated to use that authority to protect children. Sure, there are physicians who think vaccines don’t work. And there are parents who are close-minded and wouldn’t accept real science under any circumstances. 

But physicians have an obligation to save lives, and vaccines save lives. For any physician reading this blog, step up, and do your job. Convince parents to vaccinate, and vaccinate on time. Because, they do save lives.

If you need to search for accurate information and evidence about vaccines try the Science-based Vaccine Search Engine.

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