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Should doctors turn away unvaccinated children to protect other patients?

CHICAGO  It took a family bout of rotavirus, a measles outbreak tied to Disneyland and stricter school enrollment rules to get Kristen O'Meara to take a harder look at and eventually switch her once-defiant stance against vaccinations for her children.

But the 40-year-old Palos Park, Ill., mom said if a doctor had taken the time to educate rather than scold her, she might have changed her mind sooner. And her family, including three young daughters, might have avoided being sick for days with the nasty intestinal bug.

Childhood immunizations remain a deeply divisive issue. And though studies purporting to link vaccines to autism have been widely discredited, pockets of parental resistance persist: According to surveys by Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based American Academy of Pediatrics of its member physicians, more doctors in 2013 than in 2006 reported encountering vaccine-hesitant families.

In a report released in September, the academy also revealed that as parents decline to have their children vaccinated, more pediatricians are turning such families away in the name of safeguarding the health of other patients.

The academy, in newly released guidelines for pediatricians, said excluding families who refuse to vaccinate their children can be "an acceptable option" if used as a last resort in areas where doctors are not scarce, and only after several attempts to educate and quell concerns. The report details reasons why some parents are skeptical of vaccines and suggests ways to address them.

Some local pediatricians had already made it their policy not to accept new patients who are not vaccinated; other doctors have severed ties with existing patients.

The Lawton Constitution

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