“There are some that just won't have them in their practice,” Dr. Kristi Rice said. “I think that it's the time that it takes to explain why you need to vaccinate and probably the risk to the other kids, too.”
Rice accepts all patients – vaccinated or not – but said it's the doctors right to refuse to see a child who is not vaccinated. She does her best to educate parents and more often than note can convince them that vaccination is the right path.
“Parents are a lot more hesitant than they used to be, and even in the last four or five years, we've spent more time discussing why we vaccinate, what the diseases are and trying to relay some of their fears, too,” Rice said.
She said most parents come to her with questions about the safety of vaccines, such as do they cause seizures. Rice said an ingredient used in the past did cause seizures, but that it's not used anymore. She is also asked if vaccines cause autism and says there is no medical evidence that it does.
Rice said she wishes all parents would vaccinate their children.
“It would make our jobs easier, we'd ensure that the entire population would be safer, too,” she said.
Her request is unlikely, with a growing number of parents arming themselves with information about vaccines outside of their health care provider. Miller, whose kids contracted and survived pertussis, is one of those parents.
“One of the most dangerous vaccines out there that I've been told and researched has been pertussis and that was one of the biggest things we were against,” Miller said.
Her unvaccinated kids mingle with others at school every day. To do this, they must have a waiver. Last year, Washington State mandated that every parent who doesn't vaccinate their children be first educated by a health care provider and then sign a waiver that says they understand the risks and benefits of immunization.
“When the kids ask, I just let them know basically your immune system is designed a certain way and with the way the immune system battles these diseases, it's better if your body can do it without injecting something into your system that might compromise that,” Miller said.
We have decades of research that shows immunization has wiped out diseases that once killed hundreds of thousands of people from polio to measles and diphtheria. Now, a growing group of parents say vaccines aren't necessary.
“It has a lot to do with the fact that we aren't see the disease as much, so it doesn't seem that it's as scary,” Siahaya said.
Perhaps it will take decades more research to know the lasting effects of having that choice.
“My hope is that it doesn't take children dying to win the battle, that's my hope,” Siahaya said.
And hope we're doing the right thing.
“I think there's hope, and it's always a good feeling if you can educate somebody and having them be confident about why we give vaccines now and feel good about giving their children vaccines,” Rice said.
“I hope one day that we can get to the point where we can just support our bodies naturally and in some form, whether that be eliminating vaccines or not,” Miller said.
A main theme from both sides interviewed for this story is education. From the Health District to parent Julia Miller, everyone wants parents to research reasons why you should vaccinate and reasons why you should not. It's getting the facts from all sides that will help parents make the right choice for their family.