Panther Creek pediatric office notifies parents, patients it will not accept unvaccinated; says not due to new COVID-19 measures

CARY, NC (WNCN) – A Cary pediatrician said it will discharge patients who fail to adhere to the state’s required vaccination schedule.

UNC Pediatrics at Panther Creek notified parents and patients of the new policy earlier this month.

“I think they’re coming from a good place and saying, ‘I want kids here who come into my office to be vaccinated. Because those kids can influence other kids,” said Luciano Decellis, who has more than 50 years of experience as a nurse.

The state of North Carolina requires that children receive certain vaccines before they go to school. The list varies by grade, but usually includes the measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, and polio vaccines.

As of now, the COVID-19 and flu vaccines are not required to go to school, so they are not included in the new policy.

“For a doctor’s office, I would think it would be ethically wrong if they didn’t treat all children,” said Lauren Ivey, a parent who lives in Cary. “But then again, doctors’ offices don’t hire some kids on an insurance basis.”

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UNC Health told CBS 17 that the new policy is not related to COVID-19 or the increased hesitation about vaccines and said the timing is “coincidental.”

The change comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that 22 million babies around the world missed their first dose of the measles vaccine in 2020.

Measles was declared eradicated from the US in 2000, but outbreaks do occur occasionally. A majority of those missed doses happened outside the US, but health organizations warn that this could lead to a flare-up in outbreaks.

“I really think this pediatrician is taking a stand and God bless them,” said Virginia Decellis of Cary.

According to the letter that was sent, “The only exception that will be made is for cases where there is a medical reason why it would be unsafe to give vaccines.”

It continues: “We understand that some parents have chosen to delay vaccinations or not have their child vaccinated at all; however, the medical providers in this practice do not support any of these options, as refusing or delaying immunizations predisposes children to these infections and contributes to the spread of these infections in the community.”

A spokesperson for UNC Health told CBS 17 that the health system encourages patients to get vaccinated, but they are not system-wide mandatory.

Primary care and pediatric clinics can still decide whether to accept unvaccinated patients.

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