When Parents and Doctors Disagree About Vaccination

Last year, University of Cincinnati research indicated that college-educated mothers were less likely to have their children vaccinated than their less educated counterparts. It was speculated that the more educated a mother was, the easier it might be for her to have access to additional information like public database information or less reported studies in medical journals. I think another factor could be that the more educated a woman is in general, the more confident she may feel in her understanding of her legal rights on the matter. In other words, if she knows her rights, she may be less likely to change her mind under duress.

If you have decided that vaccination is not right for your child, it is important for you to know what your refusal rights are in your state. Here is a link where you can search the NVIC’s database to find out what your state’s refusal rights are.

refusal codesThere are insurance codes to describe the various reasons why parents refuse vaccinations for their children. Those codes can be found here and can give you a clearer understanding of how the refusal system is structured.

Discussing Medical Exemptions

Technically, the only time you will need to explain your vaccine refusal reasons in depth with your child’s doctor could be if you feel that your child may have a medical reason that would cause them to be exempt from compulsory vaccination. Medical exemptions are allowed in every state, though you may need to provide evidence to your doctor why your child’s medical history is counter-indicated for vaccines.

You may even have to find the prescribing information for each vaccine and literally show the pediatrician the counter-indications or allergies on those sheets. You can find the prescribing and safety info for vaccines at www.drugs.com or you can always find them on the manufacturers’ own websites. Often doctors are more than willing to discuss medical exemptions with parents if their concerns are substantiated. You may have to provide the substantiation though.

Pediatricians are Taught How to Handle Refusing Parents

If you choose a philosophical or religious exemption, you might not need to have a major discussion with the pediatrician. Some states are contemplating requiring that doctors become involved with even these exemptions though. In this case, the signature you provide will  affirm merely that you have been informed of the benefits of vaccination and the risks that they believe you are taking by not vaccinating your child. Keep in mind, at this point, doctors are essentially required to inform parents of these things. They are required be federal law to discuss the basics on the VISs and they are strongly encouraged by the American Academy of Pediatrics to use various techniques to convince parents to consent to vaccination.  Here is a document the AAP suggests to pediatricians that has scripted answers for pediatricians to relay to parents for almost every possible explanation a parent could provide.

Hear Them Out and the Refusal Forms

AAP text docIt is usually conducive to parents to at least hear them out, after all, they are virtually required to tell you these things. The  AAP provides pediatricians with the refusal forms they suggest doctors use. Here is a link to the refusal form as well as the letter that accompanies it that explains to doctors that they are allowed to alter the form to best suit their practice’s and/or the parent’s needs.

Once you have heard them out, if their form requires you to admit that you are risking your child’s life and you do not honestly believe that statement enough to sign your signature to it, you can alter that refusal form legally to add a statement or cross out a statement. It may be against their practice’s policy, but according to this letter, it will not be against the law.

The confusion parents often encounter is because for admittance into public schools, local health departments are often allowed to require you to sign an exact document/ vaccine waiver that they have chosen.

Keep the Discussion Focused

When parents understand their legal rights, they don’t feel as compelled to try to defend their firmly held beliefs and knowledge that they used to make the decision to forgo (either fully or partially) or delay vaccinations for their child. At the same time, a parent who is willing to hear the doctor out (while they inform as required-  in accordance with the professional ethics policies they adhere to) is much more likely to have their refusal form signed without much further ado. It will not hurt to listen to the opposing side. After all, isn’t that what we all want of our own side?

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