RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A Cary pediatrician has told parents it will discharge pediatric patients who don’t follow the state’s required immunization schedule. UNC Pediatrics at Panther Creek notified parents and patients of their updated policy earlier this month.
The State of North Carolina requires children to receive certain vaccines before entering school. The list differs depending on the grade, but typically includes the measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox and polio vaccines.
UNC Health told CBS 17 the policy has been in place for years across the UNC Physicians Network.
“This is a clinic-by-clinic decision on how they want to serve their patients and protect those that are in their clinics,” Dr. Sachin Gupta, a medical director of UNC Physicians Network, said.
The new enforcement at Panther Creek comes after the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control estimated 22 million babies across the globe missed their first dose of the measles vaccine in 2020. Panther Creek told CBS 17’s Mackenzie Stasko that its decision was not based on the recent uptick in protocols put in place nationally due to COVID-19 or other illnesses.
Measles was declared eliminated from the U.S. in 2000, but outbreaks occasionally happen, UNC Health said. A majority of those missed doses happened outside of the U.S., but the health organizations warn it could lead to a resurgence in outbreaks.
“Measles in particular is a very highly communicable disease. And so if it if it gets any kind of that foot in the door, it can spread very quickly,” Gupta said.
He said measles vaccines are effective in preventing infections and outbreaks in communities.
He also said the lag in vaccinations in children in 2020 could be blamed on the ongoing pandemic.
“When the COVID pandemic first started, there was a lot of uncertainty in terms of what’s safe to do in the clinic, who can come back into the clinic, how do we get patients into the clinic. And so, there was a lot of deferred care that happened at that time,” Gupta said.
Click through this slideshow to view the required immunization schedule:
Hesitancy around the COVID-19 vaccines for children and adults continues to persist. Gupta reiterated the announcement by Panther Creek was not connected to the COVID-19 vaccines.
“This is not some, you know, plot to say we’re going to mandate this vaccine,” Gupta said. “It’s really just about recommending, again, trying to promote the safety of our patients and our communities.”
With holiday gatherings coming up, Gupta said it’s especially important for children to be up to date on all recommended and required immunizations.
“It is extremely important that we still remain vigilant- masking, hand washing, distancing where we can- and just being really smart about how we gather,” he said. “It’s just really important that we stay on top of it this year so that we don’t see another surge of whether it be COVID or flu or measles even in the coming month.”
North Carolina law provides medical and religious exemptions for required vaccines. The law does not leave room for personal belief as an exemption.