Some Moms Want Separate Offices for Non-Vaccinated Babies at the Doctor — Do You?

Photo: Thinkstock / The Bump
Photo: Thinkstock / The Bump

In the midst of a New York City-wide measles outbreak (so far there have been 19 confirmed patients with the highly contagious virus), parents and doctors are coming forward, suggesting dozens of different ways to handle the situation. In an article that appeared on Slate, Sydney Spiesel, a practicing pediatric doctor, wondered aloud — and in print — whether he should only tend to the needs and appointment schedules of vaccinated children.

He wrote, “Parents who don’t want their children immunized put pediatricians—the great, great majority of us, anyway—in a quandary. On the one hand, we profoundly believe in the value and importance of vaccines. On the other hand, we profoundly believe in the value and importance of caring for all children who need us, and some of those children have parents who refuse to vaccinate. Perhaps I am too heavily influenced by the beginning of my career, which was in public health, but I feel a strong commitment to the well-being of all the kids in the community and, even more strongly, to the health of all the children in my practice; not just the one I’m seeing right this minute. I know that doctor’s offices, like schools and shopping malls—any place that children congregate—pose an increased risk for disease transmission. It just seems unfair that one parent’s well-intended but perhaps not well-thought-out decision for her own child should add risk for the lives of other children I take care of. So, yes, I do have rules that apply to parents who refuse vaccination. But my rules differ a little bit from those of most pediatricians.

Personally, I draw the line at vaccines protecting against diseases that kids might catch from exposures in my office. If parents want to withhold protection from hepatitis B or cervical and oral cancer, I think it’s not so smart, but I’ll still care for their children because not even the friskiest teen is likely to transmit these diseases in my office. Measles? Whooping cough? These are another matter. My sense of responsibility to the health of the vast majority of kids coming to see me says ‘no.’”

His stark stance on the matter had many racing eyebrows. Just this week, two-time mama-to-be Kristin Cavallari admitted that she and her husband, Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, have chosen not to vaccinate their two-year-old son, Camden, and plan to do the same for their baby-on-the-way, once he arrives. Her reason? Because she’s “read too many books about autism,” though she offered no specifics.

In an editorial on Mommyish, writer Maria Guido agreed with Spiesel. She said, “This sounds reasonable to me. You want your child to remain unvaccinated? Find a pediatrician who will treat him. Maybe the sheer inconvenience of having to search for medical doctors who actually believe vaccination against deadly disease should remain a person choice will convince these parents to make better decisions.”

Together, Guido and Spiesel have asked the question — and put it to moms to dissect. Are separate facilities needed? And would you use them? And in doing so, who are you punishing?

Are you in favor of separate offices for vaccinated and non-vaccinated babies?

Plus, more from The Bump:

Top 5 Fears About Vaccines (and How to Rest Easier)

Vaccinations: What Baby Will Need

Tool: Vaccine Tracker