Arizona doctor refuses to vaccinate his sons

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

CNN -- Dr. Jack Wolfson, an Arizona cardiologist, refuses to vaccinate his two young sons. He said the family that didn't vaccinate and endangered the Jacks children did nothing wrong.

"It's not my responsibility to inject my child with chemicals in order for [a child like Maggie] to be supposedly healthy," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, it's very likely that her leukemia is from vaccinations in the first place."

"I'm not going to sacrifice the well-being of my child. My child is pure," he added. "It's not my responsibility to be protecting their child."

CNN asked Wolfson if he could live with himself if his unvaccinated child got another child gravely ill.

"I could live with myself easily," he said. "It's an unfortunate thing that people die, but people die. I'm not going to put my child at risk to save another child."

Link: Wolfson Integrative Cardiology

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Arizona measles exposure worries parents of at-risk kids

CNN -- Anna Jacks checks her baby's forehead over and over again. Is he hot? Does he have a rash? Is his nose still runny?

Her son has been sick before, but this time it's different: Last week Eli was at a Phoenix Children's Hospital clinic with a woman who had the measles, which spreads easily from person to person. Now he's showing signs of the virus, such as runny nose and cough and fatigue.

At 10 months old, Eli is too young to get vaccinated and would be especially vulnerable to serious complications of measles, such as deafness and brain damage or even death. But his parents have an even bigger worry. If Eli does have the measles, he could give it to his 3-year-old sister, Maggie, who has leukemia.

So far Maggie is feeling fine, but her parents know that with her immune system wiped out by chemotherapy she's even more vulnerable than her brother to complications.

"My biggest fear is that I'll lose my child, or that she'll become deaf," Anna Jacks said. "My family has been through enough with cancer. I don't want her to go through anything else."

According to Arizona health officials, the woman at the clinic who put the Jacks children in danger was herself infected by members of a family that doesn't vaccinate and got measles during a visit to Disneyland, where the outbreak began more than a month ago.

This week, Maggie and Eli's father, Dr. Tim Jacks, wrote a blog post in which he expressed his feelings to this family.

"Towards you, unvaccinating parent, I feel anger and frustration at your choices," wrote Jacks, a pediatrician. "Why would you knowingly expose anyone to your sick unvaccinated child after recently visiting Disneyland? That was a boneheaded move."

"Your poor choices don't just affect your child," he continued. "They affect my family and many more like us. Please forgive my sarcasm. I am upset and just a little bit scared."

Jacks signed the post "Papa Bear."

Father asks school district to ban unvaccinated children

The Jacks family asked a CNN crew not to enter their home or meet with Eli. Out of an abundance of caution we also chose not to meet with Maggie or with Tim Jacks, who has limited immunity to measles. We spoke to Anna Jacks in person because blood tests show she has complete immunity to measles.

'No unvaccinated people around my kids'

The Jackses don't know the identity of the vaccine refusers who put their children in danger, but Anna Jacks said she knows what she would say to them if she ever met them.

"Your children don't live in a little bubble. They live in a big bubble and my children live inside that big bubble with your children," she said. "If you don't want to vaccinate your children, fine, but don't take them to Disneyland."

But Dr. Jack Wolfson said it's the Jacks family who should keep themselves at home, not him.

Wolfson, an Arizona cardiologist, refuses to vaccinate his two young sons. He said the family that didn't vaccinate and endangered the Jacks children did nothing wrong.

"It's not my responsibility to inject my child with chemicals in order for [a child like Maggie] to be supposedly healthy," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, it's very likely that her leukemia is from vaccinations in the first place."

"I'm not going to sacrifice the well-being of my child. My child is pure," he added. "It's not my responsibility to be protecting their child."

CNN asked Wolfson if he could live with himself if his unvaccinated child got another child gravely ill.

"I could live with myself easily," he said. "It's an unfortunate thing that people die, but people die. I'm not going to put my child at risk to save another child."

He blamed the Jacks family for taking Maggie to the clinic for care.

"If a child is so vulnerable like that, they shouldn't be going out into society," he said.

Anna Jacks said she hopes vaccine refusers get educated and change their minds. In the meantime, she prays that her daughter recovers from leukemia and that both her children avoid getting measles.

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Measles outbreak: Different states, different rules on vaccinations | By Holly Yan, CNN

(CNN) -- The rash of measles cases across the country has affected some states more than others. And, not surprisingly, the rules for vaccinating vary wildly from coast to coast.

Take California, for example, where more than 90 people have already been infected with measles this year. As in many states, parents in California don't have to vaccinate their children before kindergarten if they claim a religious or philosophical exemption.

Then there's Mississippi, which allows parents to opt out of vaccines only for medical reasons -- no other exceptions. That state has a 99.7% vaccination rate -- and not a single case of measles this year.

An array of exemptions

Every state requires vaccinations, and every state also allows exemptions for medical reasons, such as if a child has a weakened immune system.

That's where the consensus ends.

In many states, parents have two other ways they can avoid vaccinating children: religious and philosophical reasons.

The vast majority of the country -- 48 states -- allows religious exemptions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

And 20 of those states also allow philosophical exemptions "for those who object to immunizations because of personal, moral or other beliefs."

The two states with the strictest vaccine requirements? Mississippi and West Virginia, which don't allow religious or philosophical exemptions.

The afflicted states

California, the epicenter of the current outbreak, allows exemptions for medical reasons and "personal beliefs." And parents have been using them.

During the last school year, 3.3% of California kindergartners -- about 18,200 -- were allowed to skip vaccinations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vast majority of exemptions were due to personal beliefs.

"Schools should maintain an up-to-date list of pupils with exemptions, so they can be excluded quickly if an outbreak occurs," the California Department of Public Health said.

But the number of measles cases in California over the past month -- 92 -- is higher than the median number of cases for the entire country for each year between 2001 and 2011, according to CDC figures.

Arizona is the next hardest-hit state, with at least seven measles cases already this year. Nearly 5% of Arizona kindergartners were able to skip vaccinations last school year due to medical reasons or, more commonly, their parents' personal beliefs.

New York and Utah each has at least three measles cases this year. New York allows religious exemptions, but not philosophical ones; Utah allows both.

Overall, about 94.7% of kindergartners across the country last year were vaccinated against measles, according to the CDC.

Mississippi and West Virginia, the two states that allow only medical exemptions to vaccination, have had no measles cases this year.

An incredibly contagious disease

Before the measles vaccine was introduced in the 1960s, many children came down with the disease by age 15. About 3 million to 4 million people got measles each year in the United States. Among them, about 500 people a year died, and 4,000 developed encephalitis, or brain swelling.

Since then, the disease has largely disappeared in the United States. But international travel has spurred sporadic outbreaks in recent years.

Many of the recent measles victims are part of "a large, ongoing multi-state outbreak" linked to Disneyland in California, the CDC said.

The disease is extremely contagious for several reasons:

  • An infected person can spread it four days before developing a rash.
  • 90% of people who are not immune and are close to someone with measles will also get infected.
  • The virus is airborne.
  • It can also live on infected surfaces for up to two hours.

Most, but not all, doctors agree

The overwhelming sentiment from the medical community is that the measles vaccine is safe and effective. But Arizona cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson is a rare voice of dissent.

"It's a very unfortunate thing that people die, but unfortunately people die," Wolfson said. "And I'm not going to put my child at risk to save another child."

Those words struck a nerve with Dr. Tim Jacks, a pediatrician whose own daughter has leukemia and, therefore, a weakened immune system.

"I can definitely, wholeheartedly say that the medical community, the medical literature does not support the statements he makes," Jacks told CNN's Anderson Cooper.

"The question I might have for him is, if you were in my situation, and your two children -- who you're doing your best to protect -- if they were suddenly exposed to measles, what would your thoughts be at that point?"

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen contributed to this report.

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