Pressure mounts in California to make parents vaccinate kids

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Pressure is mounting in California to stop allowing parents to opt-out of vaccinating their kids against dangerous diseases. The number of measles cases in the Golden State hit 99 on Wednesday. Fourteen of them are here in the Bay Area.

"If I can help them not go through the misery of having the measles, or having something, why not do it?" said mother Ysleny Reyes.

That's why her boys, 6-year-old Jayden and 4-year-old Nasir, visited a clinic at Children's Hospital in Oakland. But not all parents feel that way. Though clinic director and pediatrician Dr. Kelley Meade says she's seen more change their thinking because of the nationwide measles outbreak.

"Just last week, several of my families who were not anti-vaccine entirely, but were slow vaccinators, they came in and got their kids vaccinated," she said.

Now with concerns growing, two state lawmakers, one of them a pediatrician, want to repeal the so-called Personal Belief Exemption. It's a California law that allows parents to opt out of vaccinating their children.

"That's a problem for the public health," said state Senator Richard Pan, D-Sacramento. "And that's ultimately why we originally passed the law saying you should be vaccinated before you enter school. And that's why we need to take further steps, to be sure we can protect the public health."

Dr. Jeffrey Silvers is an infectious disease specialist at Eden Medical Center, who is urging parents to vaccinate.

"Measles vaccine is based on science, it's not based on personal beliefs," he said. "The value of the vaccine has clearly been demonstrated."

He says the possible complications from measles include pneumonia, encephalitis or swelling of the brain, which can lead to hearing loss, seizures, or mental retardation. And in rare cases, measles can lead to death.

Nasir was unhappy with his measles shot but his mom is happy with her decision, though she believes parents should have a choice.

For full coverage on the measles outbreak, click here.
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