Pediatricians get more firm when parents refuse vaccines

By Tom Wilemon,, The Tennessean Updated 37m ago

Dr. Lori Breaux knows firsthand why an unvaccinated child is a health risk. Her 2-week-old infant ended up in an intensive care unit with whooping cough after she had treated a patient with the disease while pregnant.

She's one of many pediatricians who are taking tougher stands with parents who refuse vaccinations. Breaux this year began making parents sign a waiver every time they bring an unvaccinated child in for treatment. Other practices won't even accept children as patients who haven't had their shots.

Doctors are growing increasingly frustrated with what they characterize as misinformation linking childhood immunizations to autism, but many parents continue to be wary of vaccines. While parents research vaccine risks, their sources usually aren't the medical journals that doctors read.

"My response usually is for them to look at credible, researched information and data and really make an informed decision for themselves versus what someone told them," said Breaux, a doctor at Brentwood (Tenn.) Pediatrics.

More vaccine coverage:
Continuous coverage by health reporter Liz Szabo on the myths and benefits of vaccines.

Common myths about vaccines Measles returns as some parents refuse vaccines Parents describe pain of losing children to vaccine-preventable diseases Adult vaccines can hold down health costs More kids skip school shots in 8 states Dr. Robert Lillard of Jr. of The Children's Clinic of Nashville refers parents to websites for respected hospitals. Doctors have a responsibility to make their clinics as safe as possible, he said.

"We want you to feel if you're in our waiting room that you are safe," Lillard said. "By that I mean if you have to come in for a sick visit and you are sitting in the waiting room next to a child that has a rash, we want you to feel pretty comfortable knowing that's probably not measles. If you are in our practice, you've been vaccinated against measles and you're not going to be exposed to that."

Breaux's daughter recovered from whooping cough.

"That was before it was routinely recommended that adults receive a booster dose of the vaccine that protects against whooping cough," she said. "The presumption is that I was an adult carrier."

Tammy Vice of Hendersonville, the mother of an 18-year-old daughter with autism, believes there's some gray area. The daughter had a more compressed, heavier vaccine schedule than her sibling who is 6 years old, Vice said.

"Some kids do have a weaker immune system," she said. "In Morgan's case, her immune system was compromised. I don't know why. She wasn't able to handle the load. As a parent, I believe there are several factors in autism -- different cases. But in our case, I still strongly believe that was a factor in her autism."

However, Vice had her daughter vaccinated for meningitis when she was a teenager.

"I'm not saying not to do it," she said. "I'm just saying be careful how you do it.€1/8 I don't want to say vaccines cause all autism, but I do believe there are several factors, whether it be genetics or environmental. And I believe in a safe vaccine schedule where a parent is educated and takes the time and works with a doctor who respects that."

Vice cites Dr. Robert Sears, a California pediatrician who advocates an "alternative vaccine schedule" that spaces out and staggers childhood immunizations. Most pediatricians follow the more compressed schedule recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The CDC says there is no correlation between vaccines and autism. Even so, many physicians will try to accommodate parents' wishes. The Children's Clinic of Nashville will spread the schedule out to a point, as long as required vaccinations are competed by 18 months.

"We're not hard line to the point of saying, 'If you don't want a vaccine, don't even darken our door,'" Lillard said. "We always welcome people in to discuss it."

Breaux encounters parents who object to vaccines for religious reasons but she has her doubts, since this excuse can be used to get around required school immunizations.

Breaux spends as much time as she can educating parents about the safety of vaccines, even when she has to repeat herself. Every time a parent signs a waiver, she starts a discussion.

Dr. Eddie Hamilton of Centennial Pediatrics in Brentwood said he also often has to persuade parents to vaccinate their children.

"Until recent years, we weren't put into this dilemma of having such a large number of families who were choosing not to," Hamilton said. "It has really made it hard."

U.S. and Russia clash over Syria at U.N. - CBS News