Twenty percent of pediatricians say they are withholding a recommended vaccination because of a person’s “concern that the vaccine could result in autism,” according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation survey.
The survey, released on Wednesday, shows that about 6% of pediatricians surveyed said they are restricting the recommended vaccines because of any other reason.
Many pediatricians fear that because they cannot give two vaccination components for diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough — DTaP and polio — that they may not be able to prevent anyone from getting these vaccines that can have serious consequences.
Many parents feel they can make up their own minds about vaccinating their children, especially when it comes to some of the newer vaccines. But parents should look at the facts, said Dr. Deborah Peel, co-founder of Kids’ Safe Chemies, a nonprofit that aims to reduce childhood exposure to toxic chemicals.
“Vaccines are safe and recommended, and I think pediatricians are reporting the truth that they’re not performing the vaccine because of whooping cough or because of what parents feel, but they’re also not doing it because they don’t have access to vaccines, and because they worry they don’t have the confidence to perform them,” Peel said.
In response to concerns about autism, officials have recommended that parents not get a vaccine with the MMR, or measles, mumps and rubella, component. But Peel explained that the MMR vaccines provide a reduced risk of more serious infections if they are given in one series of three doses instead of the older practice of receiving them in two.
“The MMR vaccine is safe. Autism does not require the MMR vaccine. The MMR vaccine was developed long before there was a reason for believing that there was something to increase the risk of autism in children,” Peel said.
In an editorial accompanying the research, Dr. Howard Koh, the deputy assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the new information can help parents make decisions about the vaccinations their child needs.
“Physicians’ choices and beliefs are a factor that needs to be considered in determining whether to provide preventive care,” he said.
“Protecting children by providing them with the best, most effective vaccines that are available is critical to improving their long-term health and preventing illnesses and complications that can last a lifetime,” Koh said.
But Peel said the new data are “really scary.”
“It shows that some pediatricians are not really properly qualified to be making those health care decisions for their children, and I think that is leading to the highest possible vaccination refusal rate in this country,” she said.