Vaccine Refuseniks

Immune to evidence


Responding to scares peddled by anti-vaccine charlatans, thousands of American parents refuse to have their kids immunized. Now frustrated physicians have begun telling vaccine refusers to take a hike. 

A survey of 133 Connecticut pediatricians, reported in the July/August 2011 issue of Public Health Reports, found that 30 percent had declined to treat children whose parents refused to vaccinate them. A survey of Midwestern pediatricians the same year found that 21 percent had similar policies. 

Vaccine refusers are not just endangering their own kids. In February, The New England Journal of Medicine noted that California's lackluster immunization rate helped fuel a whooping cough epidemic of more than 9,000 cases in 2010, the highest incidence since 1947. Ninety percent of the cases occurred in infants, who depend on herd immunity—the broad protection that comes when enough members of a population are protected by vaccine or other immunity—because they are too young to be vaccinated. Ten of those infants died of the disease.