When it comes to vaccinations, don’t ask, just tell

NPR had report on an interesting experiment in which they found that if physicians, in their interactions with the parents of children, simply acted as if it was a given that the children would be vaccinated, then over 70 parents went along with it. But when the physicians had an open-ended discussion with parents about vaccinations, 83% decided against it. Of course, this ‘don’t ask, just tell’ policy works only with those parents who are unsure or on the fence about vaccinations. It has little effect on die-hard opponents.

But it appears that requiring parents whose unvaccinated children were exposed to measles to quarantine them is also producing results, finally making some parents realize that there are costs, at lest in the form of inconveniences, associated with not vaccinating.

Parents across the country are being forced to hire sitters or take time off from work or school to stay home with children quarantined because of measles exposure. In Santa Monica, Calif, measles temporarily shut down a high school day care center for teen mothers. Fourteen infants were told to stay home for three weeks, the incubation period for measles. That could leave their teen mothers out of school for three weeks as well.

This inconvenience has spurred some skeptics to decide to vaccinate.

Parents whose children have been quarantined after they were exposed to measles are scrambling for child care or taking weeks off from work. Many who have long resisted vaccinations have a newfound fear of the virus and are flooding pediatrician offices looking for the shots. Some pediatricians are running low of vaccine and others are calling parents to ask them to vaccinate their babies. Some are warning families not to bring contagious kids into crowded waiting rooms.

In the past, [pediatrician Amy] Shapiro had to work to persuade some parents to vaccinate their children on time. Now, so many parents are asking for the measles vaccine that she nearly ran out of shots.

As with smallpox before, successful campaigns to eliminate disease produce complacency and low vaccination rates, and it then takes disease outbreaks to bring the value and benefits of vaccinations back into focus.


  1. Katydid says

    20 years ago, the pediatrician sat me down and gave me a Very Serious Talk about the benefits of vaccination. I’m a military brat who grew up mostly overseas--I’ve gotten measles, German measles, mumps, and chicken pox, and I knew people who had polio. I was shocked that the pediatrician felt he needed to have this talk with me because I had never spoken a word against vaccination--but apparently many mothers in his practice had. That was 20 years ago, and it’s so much worse now.

  2. Numenaster says

    Better late than never. But far better if we could have learned this lesson WITHOUT bringing back killer diseases from their well-deserved place in history.

  3. lorn says

    Around the military there wasn’t any discussion. The family was going to another country and there was a list, sometimes a shockingly long one, of vaccinations you were getting. And may his noodly goodness help you if you lost the shot records. Lacking proof otherwise you were required to get he entire series again. Many commands required your shots to be caught up before pay could be issued.

  4. moarscienceplz says

    I’m not crazy about the thought of going back to the days of “The Doctor Knows Best” healthcare, because I had a situation where my (ex) GP was dead wrong and refused to consider the possibility (the specialist agreed with me). I really think medicine is best as a partnership between the doctor and patient. But some folks are so goddamned sure of the “facts” they heard from their neighbor’s babysitter’s uncle, that especially when kids are in the middle, I guess psychological manipulation is an acceptable means to the end.

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