Debate brews over children without measles vaccine

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SAN DIEGO -- A Poway mother of two is one of many parents now under pressure to vaccinate her child after the recent measles outbreak.

“I give my younger son regular pizza and I give my older son gluten-free because of his vaccine reaction,” said Rebecca Estepp. “I didn’t vaccinate my younger son because of what happened to my older son."

Her oldest son Eric, now 17, began suffering health problems shortly after he was vaccinated and was later diagnosed with autism.

“My pediatrician told me, 'I can’t tell you it was caused by vaccines but I can’t tell you it wasn’t,'” she said.

Her younger son, who isn’t up date on his vaccinations, is healthy.

“I’m not anti-vaccine but people are thinking about this topic black and white. They’re not realizing there are shades of grey. I don’t think vaccines are for everyone,” said Estepp.

Families like Estepp’s are now being asked by insurer Kaiser Permanente to reconsider getting their children vaccinated in light of the recent measles outbreak, traced to Disneyland weeks ago.

At least 79 cases have been reported so far in California.

In San Diego there have been 13 cases, 12 of which are patients who had not received the measles vaccine.

“We’re definitely going to see more in the coming weeks, measles is incredibly infectious,” said immunologist, Dr. Shane Crotty at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology.

He blames the outbreak partly on the anti-immunization movement.

“What you hope is that this is a reality check for people who aren’t getting their kids vaccinated," Crotty said.

He stressed there is no convincing scientific proof vaccines can cause harm even though he admits there is always a risk.

But in most cases the risk of not getting vaccinated is far greater, he said.

“If the rate of people not vaccinating their kids gets worse the expectation is absolutely there will be regular measles outbreaks and bigger and even then people who are vaccinated can end up catching measles,” said Crotty.

Estepp, who sides with a more holistic approach to medicine, says she wishes more efforts were made into studying the risk factors of getting vaccinated.

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