White Coat, Black Art·white coat

Parents are victims of the anti-vax movement, says pediatrician

Toronto pediatrician Dr. Dan Flanders talks about how he handles vaccine-hesitant parents, who he says are the victims of the ant-vax movement.
(Ben Shannon )

Toronto pediatrician Dr. Daniel Flanders is seeing a growing number of vaccine-hesitant parents coming through the door at his mid-town office. 

He calls them victims.

"In my opinion, these are the victims of the (anti-vaccination) campaign. I think their hearts are in the right place. They love their children. They want what is best for their children but they've been victimized. That seed of fear has been planted in their minds," he tells Dr. Brian Goldman host of White Coat, Black Art.

Flanders says if those fears are entrenched, he has to be prepared to play the long game with parents. That means he does not automatically kick them out of his care if they refuse vaccines, as some clinics do. 

"Patients may need a week, they may need a month, they may need year, even a few years ... As far as I'm concerned they should take as long as they need to feel comfortable to do what in my opinion, is the right thing."

Dr. Dan Flanders, a Toronto pediatrician says parent are victims of the anti-vaccination movement.

He says he "respectfully disagrees" with vaccine-hesitant parents but tells them as long as they are willing to keep talking about it they are welcome to continue as a patient in his practice. 

Although some are convinced on the spot, he has waited as long as two years for some parents to come around. 

While Flanders is trying to turn the tide patient-by-patient, he's keenly aware that there is another set of victims out there — those who are caught in outbreaks of preventable diseases, that can be tied directly to the anti-vax movement.

He worries those outbreaks might be the only way for people to understand the consequences of failing to get vaccinated.

"I worry and I predict there is going to be a devastating outbreak one day, and that's going to scare the crap out of us, and that's going to right the ship." 

I worry it's going take a real tragedy on a large scale to help us come to terms with that fact that we're really playing with fire here.- Dr. Dan Flanders 

Still, he is reluctant to say there is a war on vaccines.

"I hesitate to use that analogy. When there's a war it implies there are two sides. There is a presumption that both sides have a point of view worth listening to. If we're being honest the arguments that are presented by the anti-vaccine group are just not valid. They are misinformation ... They're fake news."


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