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Many Parents Would Switch Doctors Over Vaccination Policy, Poll Finds

Vaccines are still a hot button topic among parents, with many sitting on both the pro and con side of having their child protected against infectious and preventable diseases. Measles, which was once eradicated in the United States, is now becoming an epidemic in some states thanks to parents who don't believe in vaccinating their children. A new poll has found that a large number of parents in favor of vaccines are putting their foot down and would actually switch doctors if they found they treated patients who weren't fully vaccinated.

The C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health from the University of Michigan has found that 40% of pro-vaccine parents are very likely, or somewhat likely to switch doctors if they found out their doctor also treated children whose parents refused all vaccines.

The poll, taken from a sample of parents with children between the ages of newborn to 18 years, found that 39% of parents said their doctor has a policy that requires all children to receive all recommended vaccines. Only 8% said they see a doctor that requires patients to only receive some vaccines. Fifteen percent said their doctor didn't actually have a policy regarding vaccinations, while 38% didn't actually know if their doctor had a policy in place regarding vaccinations.

Credit: C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health

While the poll found that 40% of parents would switch doctors if they found out they were treating unvaccinated children, 70% stated that their doctor should have a policy in place to "to prevent completely unvaccinated children from infecting other patients."

The poll also found that parents had a mixed reaction on how a doctor's office should treat patients who weren't vaccinated, from banning them from the waiting room to requiring them to wear a mask to asking them to find another health care provider.

"When a family refuses all childhood vaccines, it puts providers in a challenging position," poll co-director Sarah Clark said in a university news release announcing the findings. "This can be especially risky exposure for vulnerable populations, including infants too young to receive vaccines, elderly patients, patients with weakened immune systems or pregnant women," Clark added.

Clark noted that the almost 40% of parents who don't know their doctor's office stance on vaccines is alarming, especially given the recent measles outbreak. "Parents may assume that when they take their child to the doctor, they are in a setting that will not expose their child to diseases," she said. "Parents may not have considered that there could be another child in the waiting room whose parents have refused all vaccines."

"Any parent -- and particularly parents of infants or immunocompromised children -- should ask their child's primary care provider about policies surrounding unvaccinated children," she advised.

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