First, you should research your state and local laws regarding vaccinations. This will be helpful if you ever decide to enroll your child in day care or public school. You need to know what kind of vaccine exemptions are allowed (medical, religious, and/or personal or philosophical) and which vaccines are required in your school district. Some vaccines that are recommended by the CDC are not required in some states for entry into school or day care.
The next thing to do is to discuss the matter with your doctor. Unfortunately, some physicians feel so uncomfortable with a parent’s decision to not vaccinate that they ask the family to leave the practice. The American Acadeour of Pediatrics does not agree with that position. The 2006 Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases states that in general, physicians “should avoid discharging a patient from their practice solely because a parent refuses immunizations for the child.” However, if you have a physician who feels strongly enough about vaccines to discharge you from the practice if you decide not to vaccinate, then that physician will probably not be a good fit for your family, and you should probably find a new doctor.
If you are able to have a comfortable discussion with your doctor, explain your thinking, and then listen to the doctor’s response. He or she might be able to correct some misinformation that you have heard and guide you to respected sources of information. Your doctor might be able to point out the flaws on the website that you have been reading. Or your doctor might agree that there are certain rare but real risks to a certain vaccine and empathize with your difficult decision.
For most physicians, this type of conversation about vaccines might best be approached outside the context of a well-child checkup. It requires more time than is usually allotted for a regular checkup, so you may need to make an extra appointment to have a lengthy discussion about vaccines. Alternatively, you might ask for extra time at the two-month well child checkup. In our practice, we bring up the issue of vaccines at the two to three-week well-child checkup to get a sense of the parents’ feelings about vaccines. If we notice some hesitation, we refer them to several sources about vaccines and also make sure our staff schedules extra time at the two-month well child checkup.
In the end, you should come up with a vaccine schedule that works for you and your family. Even though it might mean more work for his or her office, your doctor should consent to your request for an alternative schedule.
And if you flat-out refuse to administer any vaccines to your child, make sure that doesn’t sour your relationship with your doctor. In our office, we try not to take it personally and repeat our mantra: Our job is to give parents information; their job is to decide what to do with that information. However, we ask that they politely listen to us at every well-child checkup as we recommend the vaccines. If they then decide to not vaccinate, that is their decision.