Gary Monahan remembers his son’s temperature spiking to 102 degrees when he was vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella. The child then landed in the hospital with what appeared to be whooping cough after his next round of vaccinations.
By the time the child was 3 1/2 , he was diagnosed with autism, Monahan said.
The experience reshaped Monahan’s approach to raising his children. Now, the Costa Mesa city councilman, who is the father of six, has skipped vaccinations for his last four children.
Even the specter of the current measles outbreak, which spread rapidly from Disneyland after an exposure during the holidays, has not given Monahan pause.
“How do I say this without sounding crazy?” he said. “I don’t want anyone to get measles … but you have to make it easier for the parents through the health system to do it the right way. Pounding three live viruses into somebody at 1 year old is devastating.”
Measles can be especially severe in babies, toddlers and pregnant women, as well as other adults, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Especially vulnerable are infants younger than 12 months, before they get their first dose of the vaccine known as MMR — for measles, mumps and rubella.
But a growing anti-vaccination movement in the United States has been fueled by parents’ fears that vaccines are not safe for every child. Like Monahan, some worry that the measles vaccine causes autism — a theory that has been thoroughly discredited by numerous scientific studies.
In the face of the state’s worst measles outbreak in 15 years, many of those aligned with the anti-vaccine movement remain unbowed.
“What if they experience it,” said Dee Klocke of the prospects of either of her two children contracting measles. “So what?”
Klocke, whose children attend Waldorf School of Orange County where 41% of the kindergartners were unvaccinated when they entered kindergarten this year, said she and her husband, a chiropractor, aren’t worried about their children getting sick.