The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a policy position advising pediatricians in New Jersey and across the country that they can cut ties with families who refuse to vaccinate their children.

They’re also urging states to stop parents from using religion as a reason to not have their children vaccinated. New Jersey law stipulates parents may choose to not have their children vaccinated by simply requesting a religious exemption.

State Department of Health records show 9,506 children who were not vaccinated for a religious reason attended school last year, which is 1.9 percent of the entire population of kids attending preschool, kindergarten, first and sixth grade.

Dr. Radha Krishnan, a pediatrician with the New Jersey Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said doctors are being urged to sit down with parents and educate them about the safety of vaccinations. But if that doesn’t work and “if you as a pediatrician feel you are putting other kids at risk, then absolutely you have the right to tell the parent to please find a pediatrician who’s willing to take on your child.”

He stressed pediatricians around the country have been telling the AAP this is something they want to be able to do and the Academy did not have a specific policy on this issue until now.

“We have seen recent outbreaks of measles and pertussis, so if these kids are exposed to that and they come into our office with this illness, we’re then putting other children in our practice at risk for this,” he said. "They’re exposing infants and other children who are in the waiting room to that illness. We’re trying to protect a majority of our patients.”

He noted some parents have expressed concern about the safety of vaccines, especially for very young children. But the vaccines have been proven to be safe, so making parents aware of this could help, he said.

Some parents may want to wait until a child is a bit older to get a shot, and that’s fine. But “the problem arises when you say, 'Absolutely not, there’s no way I’m going to vaccinate my kid.'”

Sue Collins, co-founder of the New Jersey Coalition for Vaccination Choice, believes the position taken by the Academy is shortchanging patients.

“When did pediatric medicine become only about administering vaccinations?” she said. “I think this really ties pediatricians' hands in their ability to treat each patient for what their needs are and we all know that a one-size-fits-all policy does not work for anything in life, including medical care.”

Collins stressed what is needed is a policy that enables patients to look at what vaccinations they may or may not need, and what vaccinations may or may not work or be dangerous for them.

When asked about the concern that an unvaccinated child could potentially put other children in a doctor’s office at risk, she said “patients that have been recently vaccinated have the ability to spread the disease, especially with the live virus vaccine, and thus put others at risk. Some of the healthiest kids I know are the kids who are not vaccinated.”

She pointed out more and more vaccines are being given, but we’re also seeing more and more outbreaks of disease among vaccinated populations.

“Instead of looking at vaccine failures, we keep adding more and piling it on,” she said. “The United States gives three times more vaccines than most other developed countries and I think there is something very wrong with that. We should be focusing on how all of these vaccines may or may not be interacting with each other. Those studies have never been done.”

Sign up for the WPG Talk Radio 104.1 Newsletter

Get South Jersey news and information e-mailed to you every week.