More parents choosing not to vaccinate kids

Dr. Lauren Feder measure Mercy Ryness' head as part of the one-year-old's wellness exam at her Mid-City office.
Dr. Lauren Feder measure Mercy Ryness' head as part of the one-year-old's wellness exam at her Mid-City office.
Patricia Nazario/KPCC

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The number of kindergartners entering school without vaccines peaked in California last year. It remains high this fall as children head back to school. The trend is concerning state public health officials.

Dr. Lauren Feder measures Mercy Ryness’ head.  The little blond girl turned one last week.  Feder is an Los .Angeles-based pediatrician, holistic physician and author.  She’s been in practice about 15 years, and she says many parents these days are concerned about vaccinations.

“About half of my practice does not vaccinate at all,” Feder said.

For those patients who do, Feder says she doesn’t offer combination dosages, like most pediatricians.  She also lets parents wait to bring their babies in for shots later than usual; some doctors begin immunizations at one month.

“They typically like to start by about four to six months of age and we typically start with one vaccination at a time,” and sometimes only for a few disease, Feder says.

In a recent report, the researchers at the San Diego-based Watchdog Institute examined data from the state department of public health and found a growing trend: more families are choosing not to inoculate children.  

Public health officials warn against it, especially during the worst whooping cough epidemic in generations.  Unvaccinated kids jeopardize others when they mingle in school, experts say.

Susan Chaides – a consultant to L.A. County’s Office of Education - says state law allows parents to exercise that option.

“There has been a slight increase. Most parents who want to take a personal exemption for their believes have done their research,” Chaides said. “I read books. I looked on the Internet.”

Lori Gregory says she tried to find concrete evidence that vaccinations would benefit her child “and it wasn’t there.” 

So the 48-year-old, who blogs about holistic nutrition and spirituality, decided not to inoculate her son.  To avoid confrontation, she doesn’t bring it up with other parents at his preschool.

Alexander is two and half years old.  Gregory says one of her main worries about inoculating him was the risk of autism. 

Scientists have ruled out vaccinations as a trigger. The federal Centers for Disease Control estimates that one in 110 American children have an aspect of that developmental disease.  Medical professionals are beginning to look beyond routine childhood shots as a cause and consider other possibilities, including ultrasound readings during pregnancy, labor-inducing drugs and cesarean sections.