Lori Buher of LaConner will never forget the night her healthy teenage son Carl fell terribly ill and had to be rushed to the hospital. The diagnosis? Bacterial meningitis.
"We couldn't even conceive that it happened so quickly. We were busy, he was going to miss his next football game or next fall basketball game or his social studies test and here they were telling us he was going to die," said Buher.
Carl didn't die. But he lost both his legs and three of his fingers. That's exactly the kind of thing pediatrician Bradley Dyer wants to prevent. He's made childhood vaccinations mandatory at his practice.
"I think more physicians need to be more aggressive about vaccinating kids. If you're not willing to vaccinate your kids, if you're not willing to trust us and trust our judgment and education, then we have a philosophical difference here," he said.
Dr. Dyer says he has turned away families and encourages other doctors to do the same. It's a recommendation that angers Barbara Loe Fisher, the co-founder of the
"I think doctors are going to have to get used to parents asking questions about vaccines. And they need to have a civil, rational conversation with parents and not be bullying and threatening them," she said.
She says those decisions should be up to the parent, not the doctor.
says they do understand where doctors like Dyer are coming from.
"In 2008 three babies who are too young to be vaccinated ended up getting measles from an unvaccinated child who had measles in the waiting room of their doctor's office. So when doctors refuse to bring in patients who are not vaccinated and have them in the waiting room, that is a very valid concern," said Ari Brown, MD., Pediatrician American Academy of Pediatrics.
But they hope that doctors will think twice before turning patients away.
When Carl came down with meningitis, the vaccine wasn't even recommended for his age group. It is now. That's why Buher has become such an advocate and encourages parents to educate themselves.
"What I would say to them is there are so many things we can't protect our children from. Why not protect them from things that we can?" she said.
Instead of turning patients away, some doctors have suggested parents sign waivers or be charged higher insurance premiums.