Via The New York Times: Vaccine Critics Turn Defensive Over Measles. Excerpt:
Huntington Beach, Calif. -- Their children have been sent home from school. Their families are barred from birthday parties and neighborhood play dates. Online, people call them negligent and criminal. And as officials in 14 states grapple to contain a spreading measles outbreak that began near here at Disneyland, the parents at the heart of America’s anti-vaccine movement are being blamed for incubating an otherwise preventable public-health crisis.
Measles anxiety rippled thousands of miles beyond its center on Friday as officials scrambled to try to contain a wider spread of the highly contagious disease — which America declared vanquished 15 years ago, before a statistically significant number of parents started refusing to vaccinate their children.
In recent days, new measles cases popped up in Nebraska and Minnesota, New York and Marin County in California. Officials around the country reported rising numbers of patients who were seeking shots, as well as some pediatricians who were accepting nonvaccinated families but were debating changing their policies. The White House urged parents to listen to the science that supports inoculations.
In Arizona, health officials warned that 1,000 people could have been exposed to measles and urged anyone displaying symptoms to avoid this weekend’s Super Bowl events in the Phoenix area. In a small planned community where one family became ill after visiting Disneyland, store windows were lined with measles alerts, and a sign on the Pinal County office building warned: “Stop! Measles is in our county!” and asked people with symptoms to wear masks before entering.
But here in California, anti-vaccine parents whose children have endured bouts of whooping cough and chickenpox largely defended their choice to raise their children on natural foods, essential oils and no vaccinations.
“There is absolutely no reason to get the shot,” said Crystal McDonald, whose 16-year-old daughter was one of 66 students sent home from Palm Desert High School for the next two weeks because they did not have full measles immunizations.
After researching the issue and reading information from a national anti-vaccine advocacy group, Ms. McDonald said she and her husband, a chiropractor, decided to raise their four children without vaccines. She said they ate well and had never been to the doctor, and she insisted that her daughter was healthier than many classmates. But when the school sent her home with a letter, Ms. McDonald’s daughter was so concerned about missing two weeks of advanced-placement classes that she suggested simply getting a measles inoculation.
“I said, ‘No, absolutely not,’ “ Ms. McDonald said. “I said, ‘I’d rather you miss an entire semester than you get the shot.’ “
The anti-vaccine movement can largely be traced to a 1998 report in a medical journal that suggested a link between vaccines and autism but was later proved fraudulent and retracted. Today, the waves of parents who shun vaccines include some who still believe in the link and some, like the Amish, who have religious objections to vaccines.
Then there is a particular subculture of largely wealthy and well-educated families, many living in palmy enclaves around Los Angeles and San Francisco, who are trying to carve out “all-natural” lives for their children.
“Sometimes, I feel like we’re practicing in the 1950s,” said Dr. Eric Ball, a pediatrician in southern Orange County, where some schools report that 50 to 60 percent of their kindergartners are not fully vaccinated and that 20 to 40 percent of parents have sought a personal beliefs exemption to vaccination requirements. “It’s very frustrating. It’s hard to see a kid suffer for something that’s entirely preventable.”