Michael Grosso MD: Dealing with Vaccine Reluctance & Anti-Vaxxers


Michael Grosso, MD, discusses how a shift in societal norms has led parents to view doctors as consultants whose advice regarding their children can be freely rejected.

A lot has changed since Michael Grosso, MD, became a pediatrician many years ago - including a major shift in societal norms that leaves parents thinking of their children's pediatricians as consultants, rather than trusted, respected medical professionals.

“Now more than ever before, vaccine reluctance has become a standard topic for podium presentations. It’s become a subject of scholarly research, not only to understand the epidemiology of vaccine reluctance but also more recently to identify tested strategies for countering that with education and relationship-based interventions.

So that’s happening at the national level. At the local level, is there worry? Absolutely. Pediatricians, when two or more are gathered, will almost inevitably discuss the frustrations and the time and resources that are being redirected from other activities, to spend on counseling in the examining room with the adolescent, with the parent, with a parent of a newborn, about concerns around immunization. So it really does impact the practicing pediatrician to very extensive degree.

We need to be very good at approaching each patient and each family where they are — not talking over their head, providing simple info, not being judgmental. There’s a lot of controversy, as a matter of fact, about whether pediatricians should be dismissing from their practices parents who refuse to immunize their children, and there’s actually a bioethical debate about whether that’s an appropriate or an inappropriate thing to do.

It used to be that the physician saw his role as providing guidance, and by and large it was expected that that guidance was taken seriously. In the 21st century, patients and families come to physicians as consultants, and like a CEO calling in a consultant, they may feel that it would be appropriate to take the advice at some times and reject it at other times. That’s a sort of social demotion. It’s been a little unsettling to people, so there have been these societal changes to deal with.”

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