Sunday, August 5, 2012

Note to Peds: They're Looking For You

The other day I did a search on "Moms Who Vax" to see how this blog was coming along in the fight to get pro-vax resources higher up on the virtual totem pole during a blanket search for "vaccines" and came across something interesting. Again and again my search results delivered forum posts from vaccine-hesitant parents who were querying their online communities for pediatricians who would accomodate delayed vaccinations. Below are just a few examples of what I found.

In Missouri:

In Texas:
(The questioner says she "thought she had a pediatrician but apparently she isn't taking new patients"--which made me smile--good on ya', doc!)

In Washington State (Seattle):

In Michigan (Grand Rapids):

And then this epic thread from Berkeley:

This is just a sample of the number I came across during a casual search. It reminded me of how I found my children's new pediatric clinic (I left my previous pediatric clinic after a child with measles exposed children in the waiting room, along with a pregnant pediatrician, to the virus). I had done a search looking for pediatricians in the Twin Cities area who were actively turning away anti-vax parents or parents who skipped a lot of vaccines for their children. Some pediatricians in Colorado and New England have begun doing this out of concern for their newborn patients. Alas, I had no luck finding such a practitioner in Minnesota, but I did locate a forum post in where a Twin Cities woman was looking for a practitioner who would be open to delayed vaccination. A couple women replied with the name of their pediatrician at a highly respected pediatric clinic.

I don't know why, but I felt moved to write the clinic a letter, along with a copy of this forum exchange, to let them know that this information was being spread on the internet and likely attracting anti-vaccine parents to their clinic, putting their patients at risk. Dropped it in the mail and did not include a return address for reasons I have no grasp on to this day! Anyway, I later found out that another of our fearless Moms Who Vax proudly claimed this clinic as hers--she drives her children all the way across town to see the pediatricians here. She was appalled by what I had found, and in true pro-vax mama style, printed off the pages of the forum exchange herself and showed them to her pediatrician, whose response was grim-faced silence. He was clearly very disheartened (he was not the pediatrician in question, by the way).

About three weeks later, I returned to the clinic's website to find it had put on its front page a clear, almost blunt statement about its policy on vaccines. While they were not turning anyone away, they were also making no bones about the fact that they encouraged and recommended vaccines, that a discussion about vaccines would be a part of every well child visit that would include immunizations, etc. I was so impressed by this that I scheduled an appointment with one of the doctors--and we are now patients of this clinic. Further conversations with the pediatricians have convinced me that they are 100% pro-vaccine; I am not sure what became of the pediatrician in question, however.

I bring this story up because I happen to know that the pediatricians at this clinic were completely blindsided by this online discussion about their practice. They did not want to be known as a place where anti-vax parents could seek safe harbor, where parents who were delaying vaccines could find a sympathetic ear and a willingness to enable a parent to put a child, and other children, at risk. I wanted to highlight this online discussion because it's taking place all over the Internet, perhaps below the radar of medical professionals who probably have never considered doing a simple Google search with terms like "moms who vax" (which seems to turn up a lot of "No-Vax Moms?" and "Slow-Vax Moms" threads). But chances are they will be surprised to find that one of their pediatricians is being held aloft by anti-vax parents as a person in the mainstream medical community who will accomodate their unscientific beliefs about the dangers of vaccinations. The question now becomes how these pediatric clinics will fight back so they do not become gathering places for non-vaccinating parents, which could become a public health nightmare.

I think a good start, at least for this blog, will be to post, from time to time, the forum posts that mention such doctors by name. I choose to believe that the vast majority of them have no idea they have been identified by the non-vax community as their champions. My guess is that they accomodate these parents in the hopes of changing their minds; that is the reasoning behind most clinics accepting non-vaccinating parents. We have more of a chance of getting them vaccinated than we would if we kick them out and have them all gathering at the naturopath. But it's time to bring this underground discussion out into the light so non-vaccinating parents have fewer and fewer mainstream medical practitioners who will be warm and fuzzy in regards to their decision not to vaccinate; to help doctors get a better handle on how they and their practices are perceived when it comes to the vaccine question; and to help clinics and practices see how accomodation can often turn around and bite them in the rear end.

In the end, we'll have to face the fact that anti-vax and the so-called "slow-vax" parents utilize the kind of obfuscation and machination that would make members of the the Tudor court blush (this exchange on a forum post for example: "Here's an idea--when you go to your appts, just say no to more than 1 vaccine at a time. They cannot force them on you. Then you can just say that you'll do more next time you come in. Keep playing it that way.") But pediatricians can, with just a little casual Google research, at least get a handle on what's being said about their views on vaccination.

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