Provider dismissal policies and clustering of vaccine-hesitant families: an agent-based modeling approach

Hum Vaccin Immunother. 2013 Aug;9(8):1819-24. doi: 10.4161/hv.25635. Epub 2013 Jul 5.


Many pediatric practices have adopted vaccine policies that require parents who refuse to vaccinate according to the ACIP schedule to find another health care provider. Such policies may inadvertently cluster unvaccinated patients into practices that tolerate non vaccination or alternative schedules, turning them into risky pockets of low herd immunity. The objective of this study was to assess the effect of provider zero-tolerance vaccination policies on the clustering of intentionally unvaccinated children. We developed an agent-based model of parental vaccine hesitancy, provider non-vaccination tolerance, and selection of patients into pediatric practices. We ran 84 experiments across a range of parental hesitancy and provider tolerance scenarios. When the model is initialized, all providers accommodate refusals and intentionally unvaccinated children are evenly distributed across providers. As provider tolerance decreases, hesitant children become more clustered in a smaller number of practices and eventually are not able to find a practice that will accept them. Each of these effects becomes more pronounced as the level of hesitancy in the population rises. Heterogeneity in practice tolerance to vaccine-hesitant parents has the unintended result of concentrating susceptible individuals within a small number of tolerant practices, while providing little if any compensatory protection to adherent individuals. These externalities suggest an agenda for stricter policy regulation of individual practice decisions.

Keywords: decision-making; immunization; immunization schedule; parents; vaccination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cluster Analysis
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Models, Statistical
  • Organizational Policy
  • Refusal to Treat / ethics
  • Refusal to Treat / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Treatment Refusal / psychology*
  • Vaccination / statistics & numerical data*
  • Vaccines / administration & dosage*


  • Vaccines