Doctors Learn to Push Back, Gently, Against Anti-Vaccination Movement

In the face of persistent anti-vaccine efforts, doctors are learning to fight back by educating not only their patients, but themselves. The LA Times follows University of Pennsylvania pediatrician and vaccine advocate Paul Offit to a doctor training session he recently gave at UCLA:

[Offit] wanted to give them the kind of pushback doctors have come to expect in affluent parts of Los Angeles and California, where increasing numbers of parents are refusing to inoculate their kids against contagious, even life-threatening diseases for fear of complications.

For many of the pediatricians in the audience, taking a hard line on the immunization schedule can mean potentially alienating well-intentioned, if misinformed, parents.

Dr. Lisa Stern, background, took part in coaching in talking about vaccinations with parents like Rachel Gipson, who brought her twins in for a checkup at Tenth Street Pediatrics. (Rick Loomis)

If Offit, a rock star in his field, could give these doctors more factual ammunition — and a little practice on their delivery — could they help convince resistant parents that science is simply not on their side?

The salt-and-pepper-haired Offit slipped straight into character and zeroed in on one young doctor.

“I know you doctors keep telling me that vaccines don’t cause autism. If that’s true, then why is it on this package insert?” he asked, playing the role of a parent who had read the blogs and heard the celebrities who connect the two.

Shifting in her seat, the designated victim shot Offit an unsure look.

Then she began citing studies and said that drug packaging inserts include many “temporally associated symptoms” that weren’t necessarily caused by the vaccine.

“Why?” Offit pressed. “Why would they put that there — just to scare me?”

The doctor kept trying. “They’re required by law,” she said. “I actually didn’t know the answer.”