Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Vaccine Soapbox. But not really.

I posted in a Friday Fragments post that I was back on my vaccine soapbox after a recent incident. But really, that's not totally true.

I'm more on a rant about how our pediatrician's office is handling the situation.

So, for those of you who don't know, we chose to delay several of FireGirl's vaccines, and skip two.

Last Autumn, when she started at her old preschool, we got a religious exemption form to enroll her, signed by her pediatrician.

The week before she started her new preschool, I called her pediatrician's office to let them know I would need her immunization records as well has have a new exemption form signed. They told me I could pick it up on Friday. She was scheduled to start school on Monday.

When I go in to pick them up, they give me her immunization record, and the office manager asked me to step into a back office to talk about the exemption form.

I was told that as a practice they no longer sign exemption forms for patients, and at that time was not given any explanation other than "that is the stance our practice is taking".

She then explained that if I still needed one (duh), that I would need to contact the Health Department, who would show me a video explaining the vaccines.

This was a little confusing to me. I asked her why. She said so I would understand why vaccines are necessary.

So I said something along the lines of:

"So this practice's stance is that the only reason that a parent would make a serious medical decision for their child that is contrary to your position on the subject is that the parent must not be educated on the issue?"
She stuttered, and insisted that no, they were not saying that anyone was uneducated.

So I  asked what watching a video was supposed to do then.

She said something about giving parents more information.

So I reiterated that they were basically taking the stance that the only reason a parent would delay or skip any vaccine is that said parent must be uneducated on the matter, and that by watching a video, surely said parent will change their mind.

More stuttering.

Keep in mind that at no point was I ever asked why we had chosen to delay / skip these vaccines. At no point during our appointments had the pediatrican or nurse asked us.

She said maybe a doctor could explain it better, and would I like FireGirl's pediatrician to call me later.

Yes, in fact, I would.

He did.

He explained that their legal counsel had recommended that they no longer sign exemption forms, as to do so could make them liable in the case the child, or the child's immediate contacts, contracts the disease for which they were not vaccinated.

Okay. I get that.

So I asked if that then meant that they were assuming liability for any side effects that children suffered as a result of the immunizations, and assuming liability for any children that contracted the illness despite the vaccine.

Like, perhaps they would like to pay us back for the multiple visits FireGirl had in their office and the dermatologist when she developed Gianotti-Crosti Syndrome from a vaccine when she was a year old.

Well, no.

I told him that did not make sense, was not logical.

He then said that their counsel did advise them they could sign the exemption form in the rare instance that it was a true religious exemption, in which they confirm the parent's official religious affiliation and receive documentation from their house of worship stating that receiving said vaccine violates their religious beliefs.

I explained to him that even asking a patient or parent their specific religious affiliation was most likely illegal, and that Kentucky law was written to be specifically vague to allow for personal religious beliefs, not just organized religion.

He said he did not know that.

I then suggested that they might want to find new legal counsel, because it sounded to me like whomever it was was giving them advice that made it more likely that they would be the center of a lawsuit, not less likely.

He did not appreciate that.

And then I just had one more question.

If you signed one in September, your policy must have changed within the past nine months.


So why weren't parents notified? Either by mail, by informing us when we came in, or by posting it somewhere in the office (there are numerous postings throughout the office both in the patient rooms & by the reception desk)? And why wasn't I informed when I called and specifically said I would be picking one up?

His response? They had discussed notifying parents, but they didn't think it was that big of a deal.

I told him it certainly was a big deal for any parent trying to register their child for school, to get that unexpected surprise at the last minute.

That also bothers me for a broader reason, of wondering what other policies have they / might they change, that they never communicate to parents until it's too late, because the doctors / office manager / legal counsel don't think it's a "big deal".

Again, I would like to note that nowhere in this conversation did he ever ask me why we had delayed / skipped certain immunizations for our daughter.

Not once has anyone at this practice asked us why. We have not, ever, even been asked our religious affiliation (since apparently it is perfectly okay for them to ask that). We have only been told, in very polite terms, that the only reason a parent would not follow the "normal" immunization schedule for their child must be a lack of education.

Honestly, if we didn't love our pediatrician and the care he has provided her since she was a day old (literally), I would probably now be looking for a new practice.

So anyway... we turned in her immunization record on FireGirl's first day of school, and scheduled an appointment for the Health Department. For three weeks later. The soonest they could see a non-urgent patient.

But we're to call the day before to make sure the staff we're scheduled with is actually gonna be there.

Becaaaauuuse... that's... an... efficient... way... to run... an office.... ?
I was kinda speechless when she told me that, and had to have her repeat the instructions, certain I'd misunderstood. Nope. We have an appointment. But we are to call the day before to "make sure" the people we're scheduled with will be there. If they're not gonna be there, or if we get there the day of and they're not there, we'll have to reschedule, probably another three weeks out.

What the...?{{steps on political soapbox for a minute}} Good thing Obamacare got passed. Because clearly having the government run our medical offices is a great idea (please note sarcasm).
Fortunately FireGirl's school hasn't said a word about her missing immunizations. Yet.

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