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When Doctors Don’t Vaccinate Their Own Children

by Randall Neustaedter OMD


Lo and behold, some doctors delay or decline to give vaccinations to their own children. A survey of Swiss doctors discovered interesting trends. Questionnaires were sent by e-mail to 2,070 Swiss physicians registered with InfoVac a vaccination information service for doctors. Although 95 percent of pediatricians surveyed agree with vaccination recommendations and would apply them to their own children, a significant proportion of nonpediatricians often disagreed with policies and made other decisions for their own families. Nonpediatricians were twice as likely as pediatricians to deviate, for their own child, from the recommended schedule. Pediatricians were more likely to give Hib, measles, mumps, and hepatitis B vaccines to their own children than nonpediatrician parents.

For example 5 percent of nonpediatricians would not use the Hib vaccine for their own child. Their reasons for declining the use of Hib for their own children included a lack of concern about the disease and the desire to reduce vaccines to a minimum. Similarly almost 5 percent of physicians did not use the MMR vaccine in their own children. According to the authors the reasons for vaccine refusal included “the wish to avoid the trivalent combined vaccines because of safety concerns, the preference for infection-driven rather than vaccine-induced immunity, and the conviction that homeopathic treatment allows a benign outcome of measles, mumps, and rubella.” Almost 10 percent of nonpediatricians would delay the initiation of DTaP vaccination beyond 6 months and 15 percent would not give the first dose of measles or MMR before 2 years of age.

These choices for physicians’ own families seem to reflect the same concerns as those of other educated health care consumers. In fact the authors themselves state that concerns over safety and a reliance on other systems of healing “are frequent beliefs in the general population and that they are supported by physicians who adhere to alternative medicine concepts is not unexpected.” Of the nonpediatricians 7 percent reported membership in an alternative medicine association compared with 3 percent of pediatricians.

The authors puzzle over the decisions of physicians who should apparently know better. “Despite their scientific training and education, they express the same concerns as those that prevail in the public.” Perhaps there is something wrong with their scientific training if physicians are willing to reject it in favor of conclusions that accord with their own educated research.

Posfay-Barbe KM, et al. How do physicians immunize their own children? Differences among pediatricians and nonpediatricians. Pediatrics 2005 (Nov); 116:e623-e633.


  • liz

    How in the world is 5% “a significant portion?”