Last month The Hollywood Reporter published an illuminating investigation on immunization trends in Los Angeles County, which revealed that vaccination rates on the city’s wealthy west side, in neighborhoods like Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, had plummeted, as incidents of whooping cough surged. The piece had the virtue of offering New Yorkers yet another opportunity to feel smugly superior to their counterparts in L.A., because of course here on the East Coast we like our science to come from scientists, not from former Playboy models and people who feel entitled to pontificate about public health because they drink kefir.
“I thought, Whooping cough? Who gets whooping cough anymore?” she said. The episode compelled her to start asking about vaccination early on. “No application to any school asks, ‘Are you an anti-vaxxer?’ but these schools want to keep the anti-vaxxers out.” So, she said, “I ask people and if they get into the whole anti-vaxxer deal, I say, ‘Fine, we can’t work with you.’ ” You’re not, as she put it, “going to Horace Mann like this.”
There is enough appeal in anti-vaccination thinking among members of the affluent class that certain pediatricians in the city, as they have elsewhere around the country, have made it a policy in recent years to refuse to see children whose parents won’t have them immunized. A few years ago Pediatric Associates of NYC, which has branches in Murray Hill in Manhattan and Prospect Heights in Brooklyn, chose this course, David Horwitz, a partner in the practice told me, in large part because it simply became untenable to have unvaccinated children sitting in waiting rooms.
Within the American Academy of Pediatrics there has been a rancorous debate about whether doctors should see un-immunized patients, and the academy’s position has leaned toward an inclusive approach. But, Dr. Horwitz said, “we were spending a lot of time talking to parents who weren’t immunizing and who were terribly ill informed. A lot of people would continue to come back and come back and come back and we were spending so much time talking about vaccinations that we weren’t dealing with other things,” he said.“We ultimately felt ethically uncomfortable seeing people who don’t vaccinate.
We are advocates for children, not their parents.”
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