Just 19 years ago, the United States was considered measles-free, but with the new wave of unvaccinated children, the disease has returned and The Doctors question if these children living without vaccines are causing a public health crisis.
The recent measles outbreak is said to be the largest in 30 years and many wonder if non-vaccinated children should be allowed in doctor's offices or if there should be restrictions placed on who they interact with. Pediatrician Dr. Eric Ball, who does not allow unvaccinated kids in his office, and pediatrician Dr. Oliver Brooks, who does treat unvaccinated kids, weigh in.
Dr. Ball's office was at the epicenter of a measles outbreak in 2015 and he explains that the disease is incredibly contagious and can linger in the air for up to 2 hours. He says because babies cannot be vaccinated until they are 12 months, that having older unvaccinated children in close proximity to vulnerable babies became too much of a risk. "We had to make a decision. Are we going to allow these patients to come in our office and to potentially put our other patients at risk, or are we gonna stand with our families who vaccinate our kids and protect our babies and immunocompromised patients? And it was an easy decision for us," he says of his rule of no longer taking patients who do not vaccinate.
Dr. Brooks, who is a strong proponent of vaccines, explains why he continues to treat unvaccinated kids. "If they don't come to me, then who is going to take care of them?... Children are your patients, it's not the parent. The child did not decide to not get vaccinated, the family decided to not get vaccinated," he tells The Doctors. He explains that he works to build a relationship with the family and helps educate them on the importance and misconceptions regarding vaccinations. He also notes that he takes precautions and pre-screens his unvaccinated patients in order to minimize exposure and risk.
In addition to the health of each child, Dr. Ball feels strongly that vaccinations are vital to the health of the entire community. Dr. Brooks agrees, explaining one of his goals in treating families who do not vaccinate is to help them see why vaccines are so important and hopefully end up getting them to vaccinate their children.
Both Dr. Ball and Dr. Brooks, say one of their biggest hurdles when it comes to vaccines is combating the misinformation regarding vaccines, especially anecdotal second-hand stories and false social media posts. Get more information on vaccines and learn about why they are so important at these websites: