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Children's Vaccines Health Center

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Refusing to Vaccinate Affects Other Kids, Too

Study: Vaccine Refusal Fueled San Diego Measles Outbreak

San Diego Measles Outbreak continued...

"There were moments I was worried he wouldn't make it because this fever just wasn't letting up. This 106-degree fever, and this rash that made my son look like an alien almost, and I wondered if he was going to be the same boy he was a week before," Campbell told interviewer Susan Burton on the radio program This American Life.

The infant spent three days in the hospital. He dropped from 18 to 12 pounds in five days. He was sick for weeks; Campbell and her husband had to take a month off of work. Fortunately, the boy recovered fully.

"I just wondered how this family who had brought this into San Diego, what were they thinking?" Campbell said on the radio program. "Were they thinking they were part of something that put that child there? Did they feel for us at all? Did they feel bad about it?"

Many Parents Question Vaccine Safety

Part of the CDC and San Diego County investigation involved outreach to parents in the affected community who believe vaccines pose a greater risk to children than the diseases they prevent.

These parents told the researchers that they were skeptical of vaccine safety and efficacy claims by the government, the pharmaceutical industry, and the medical community. They felt there was a very low risk of getting a vaccine-preventable disease, and that such diseases were better prevented by "natural lifestyles" including prolonged breastfeeding and organic foods. Most felt vaccines could damage a child's immune system and cause neurologic complications such as autism.

"I really don't think many of them changed their minds," study investigator and CDC researcher Albert E. Barskey, MPH, tells WebMD. "They were pretty set in their ways. In fact, when given the choice of vaccinating their children after exposure so they could go back to school, most chose instead to keep them quarantined at home for three weeks."

Even so, when faced with the fact that their children had been exposed to measles, about 40% of the parents did chose vaccination over quarantine.

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