Oct 3, 2014, CNN's Alisyn Camerota interviewed autism mom Becky Estepp and Dr. Harvey Karp. The subject was vaccine exemptions/a parent's right to choose.
Should parents decline child vaccines?
Becky explained that she stopped vaccinating her younger son because of the vaccine reaction her older son experienced.
"I took him in for a Hepatitis B vaccine, he immediately a hideous diarrhea, later that night, developed a fever, arched his back, screamed. If I would have known, as a young mother, these were signs of encephalopathy--brain swelling, I would have known to get him to a doctor right away. After that evening, his health deteriorated for the next two years. At two years and nine months he was diagnosed with autism. We didn't put the pieces of the puzzle together until I had my second son, who also started to exhibit some strange vaccine reactions. At that point I had to really weigh the options. My husband and I decided that our children's neurodevelopment was more important than vaccinating for these diseases. ...They could have permanent damage."
When Becky was asked about what her unvaccinated children might do to herd immunity she said, "I say that it's their right to vaccinate their children and if vaccines work the way they're supposed to, their children are safe. There's no reason to worry about my child; their children are vaccinated. I'm the one who's taken the calculated risk for a very good reason."
Dr. Harvey Karp was asked for his opinion on opting out.
"We all live in a community together and if you don't get vaccines, your child's going to have a higher risk of getting illnesses. Sure, if the other child's vaccinated, that may protect them. We wish vaccines worked a hundred percent, but they don't work a hundred percent. So it does increase the risk that a child even who's had vaccines can get an illness, but I'm more concern about the baby in the family, or your next door neighbor's baby. Maybe they're not old enough to get the vaccine yet and your toddler plays with them and can spread the illness to them. That poor unprotected child is totally at risk. And we're especially concerned about whooping cough, which is more contagious than any other known disease. If you live on a farm, I have no problem if you choose not to get the vaccines, but if you're benefitting by living in a community where everyone else is getting vaccinated and the next baby born on your block is depending on your children getting vaccinated, I think it's your responsibility. Otherwise you're really freeloading on the efforts made and the exposure made by the other families."
Becky was asked for her response.
"The problem that my children had was that I took my older son to an immunologist after he was diagnosed with autism. He ran a titer test. Every vaccine that we tested, my son did not develop titers. So even if I continued to vaccinate him, he would still be unprotected. There's no reason to vaccinate. The did not receive protection from his vaccines. He was vaccinated but he was not immunized. ...
Alisyn Camerota then did something I rarely ever see in broadcast journalism--she actually facts to challenge the efficacy of vaccination.
"I have here ... the whooping cough report. This is from the California Department of Public Health and it talks about this year--how there's been this spike in pertusus, as it's called. I want to read it to you because it's pretty fascinating. Pertusis is cyclical and it peaks every three to five years as the numbers of susceptible persons in the population increases due to the waning of immunity following vaccination. In other words, the vaccine is only good for five to ten years and then you're no longer immunized. It's not just parents in other words, who are opting out of vaccinating their kids, it's parents who think that their kids are immunized and it's worn off."
"That's absolutely the case. We worry most about the littlest children because they're the ones who die from whooping cough and have to be hospitalized. Anyone can get whooping cough but it turns out to be more of a bad cold, a terrible cough as you get older. This is the crazy thing. We've weakened the vaccine. We were seeing some side effects of the vaccine, so to protect children from side effects, we weakened the vaccine. We made it more purified. And as an effect of that, it made the immunity last not as long as the old vaccine. It was more purified, so we have more children with fewer side effects.
Dr. Karp completely ignored what Becky said about her son's vaccine reaction. ("Wait a minute. I thought vaccines don't cause autism, but this mom claims they did for her son and the doctor here didn't say anything about it.")
Karp acted like vaccinating everyone for whooping cough would protect children too young to be vaccinated until Camerota pointed out that the vaccine's effects wear off in 5 to 10 years. Then he acted like he knew all about it. ("There must be millions of adults running around with no immunity to whooping cough so what good does it do to the insistence that every child be vaccinated?")
Karp did acknowledge that the old whooping cough vaccine had serious side effects so they replaced it with one that is less damaging and less effective. ("Maybe I have a lot of reasons to worry about choosing to vaccinate my children.")
(Five years ago I wrote this about Harvey Karp. http://www.ageofautism.com/2009/06/aap-spokesperson-dr-karp-speaks-of-world-wide-rise-in-autism.html Remember Karp on Larry King Live with Jenny McCarthy? He's in my upcoming book. So is Alisyn Camerota--because of her exemplary coverage of the vaccine controversy when she was at Fox.)
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Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism and author of The Big Autism Cover-Up: How and Why the Media Is Lying to the American Public, which goes on sale this Fall from Skyhorse Publishing.