JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Some Florida parents were shocked after they say they were kicked out of local pediatric offices for refusing to vaccinate their kids.
“We want everyone vaccinated and caught up with the CDC schedule by age of 2,” said Dr. Thomas Connolly, a pediatrician with the Carithers Pediatric Group.
It turns out, the decision to not vaccinate their kids is becoming more common locally.
WTLV compared numbers from the 2002-2003 school year to the 2016-1017 school year for Clay, Duval and St. Johns' public schools. The number of religious exemptions for kindergarten students went up seven times in Clay County, 17 times for Duval County and 25 times for St. Johns County. However, data also shows that 93 percent to 96 percent of students have all the vaccinations required to start school.
Connolly said he strongly encourages all of his patients to get vaccinated.
“It’s nothing personal against you as a person, I respect your decision that is your decision, but my medical decision and my background and my belief is I want the child vaccinated to maximize their defense,” Connolly said.
He’s not the only practice in Jacksonville strictly enforcing the guidelines. Rainbow Pediatrics also recently changed their vaccine policy.
“My oldest son is 13 and just recently, I took them into the same pediatrician’s office and they informed me at the end of the visit that they would no longer see my children because I don’t vaccinate them,” said Lauren McGuinnes, a mother of four. She said she stopped vaccinating her kids several years ago, but what shocked when Rainbow Pediatrics refused to continue providing care for them.
“Parents are kind of being bullied to vaccinate,” she said.
We reached out Rainbow Pediatrics for comment and they sent us a statement saying that their vaccine policy changed at the start of 2017. It states the practice no longer accepts new patients who "refuse to vaccinate."
“We feel strongly that vaccinating children is absolutely the right thing to do for infants, children and young adults," said Prasanthi Reddy.
McGuinnes said she doesn’t agree.
“I don’t agree with injecting my children with the virus that I’m trying to protect them from," she said.
Connolly said turning patients away is not an easy decision, but one that he feels is necessary to protect other children from serious illnesses.
“If a child is not vaccinated intentionally, comes back from a trip, brings back measles or something along that line and goes into the waiting room and we have babies or kids who are on steroids or chemo type thing, they just got everybody,” Connolly said.
Connolly said he’s willing to discuss an alternate vaccine schedule with parents, but will not see patients who opt out altogether.