Take Two

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Northridge doctor turns away unvaccinated children

by Take Two

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The decline in Personal Belief Exemptions follows the Jan. 1, 2014 implementation of a law that requires parents to talk with a doctor about the benefits and risks of immunization, and the risks of vaccine-preventable diseases. Photo by El Alvi via Flickr Creative Commons

Measles FAQ |  School immunization rates

In the midst of the measles outbreak, some doctors are refusing to see children who haven't had their shots.

Dr. Charles Goodman, who specializes in pediatrics and adolescent medicine and practices in Northridge, California, is one of these doctors.

"My stance has always been that it's best to vaccinate. It's one of the best ways to protect children, and the vaccines are both safe and efficacious," he said. "I've believed that ever since I've been a pediatrician, which is over 20 years, but I didn't really force the issue, and I was accepting of many patients who chose not to vaccinate."

He has changed his mind, thanks to the measles outbreak stemming out of Disneyland.

"I realized that my main job was to take care of children and not do harm. Originally when there was not a lot of measles out there, not getting that vaccine didn't seem, to me, quite so dangerous and didn't seem like it was doing much harm to children, although I probably was doing more harm to children than I knew, to be honest," he said. "But now that there's many, many more cases popping up every day, I've realized that, you know what? Do no harm means make sure they get that vaccine, and if they don't get that vaccine and they show up at school, or my waiting room, or somewhere else with measles, perhaps before they even have signs and symptoms of that disease, they are highly contagious...they are a public health risk."

Goodman used to spend 10 or 15 minutes during an appointment to explain to parents that the MMR-autism link was a myth. Now, he is cracking down on parents of both new and existing patients who do not vaccinate their kids. He started by posting signs in his office, and even put a notice on his practice's Facebook page, that said he is not accepting any new patients that don’t vaccinate.

After about a day, he decided to add existing patients who were not vaccinated to that list. He has had his office call parents personally, offering to help them find new doctors.

"We still care about them, but we just can't allow that risk to occur at our office," he said.

Goodman says the response has been overwhelming, and vaccination appointments are through the roof.

"We're scheduling them like crazy, which has made this thing a giant success," he said.

There are exceptions, of course, like children with pre-existing conditions or children who are allergic to the vaccine.

"Of course if somebody has a medically good reason to not do the vaccine, whether it be allergy or immunosuppression, those people don't get it. And it's actually because of those patients that the herd immunity -- the idea that we need to protect everybody to protect those few who can't get the vaccine -- it's because of those people that I believe strongly, at least in part, that I really, strongly believe that everyone should get the vaccine," he said.

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