A statewide whooping cough epidemic has not changed how Danielle Lawson of San Anselmo feels about vaccinating her 5-1/2-month-old daughter.
Lawson has declined almost all of the standard vaccines recommended for infants, including DTaP, which protects against whooping cough.
“I haven’t categorically ruled them out,” she said. “But I just think at this point she’s too young, and her immune system is still developing. Nothing goes into my baby right now, except for breast milk, so I don’t feel comfortable injecting her with strange chemicals.”
Unfortunately, public health advocates say, the consequences of rejecting vaccination are not strictly personal. Widespread vaccinations not only make disease outbreaks less likely, but they also help protect vulnerable populations like newborns who are too young to get shots.
“Anything that leaves people unimmunized and unprotected, thereby reducing the overall rate of protection in the community, would be a contributing factor when you have an outbreak,” said Dr. Fred Schwartz, Marin County’s public health officer.
Parents who do have their children vaccinated are troubled by others opting out, fearing outbreaks of disease.
“This is the first one to hit us, but how long until we have a chicken pox outbreak, or mumps or polio?” said Sara Sonnet of San Rafael, a mother of two young girls who are both fully immunized. “We take it for granted.”
The article concludes with this winner: “Others remain unconvinced. Lawson now avoids taking her daughter to the pediatrician, taking her to see a chiropractor instead.”