Vaccine Critics Turn Defensive Over Measles

These Anti-Vaccers are ridiculous. These diseases are solved problems. Protect your children. Get them vaccinated.

The anti-vaccine movement can largely be traced to a 1998 report in a medical journal that suggested a link between vaccines and autism but was later proved fraudulent and retracted. Today, the waves of parents who shun vaccines include some who still believe in the link and some, like the Amish, who have religious objections to vaccines. Then there is a particular subculture of largely wealthy and well-educated families, many living in palmy enclaves around Los Angeles and San Francisco, who are trying to carve out “all-natural” lives for their children.

“Sometimes, I feel like we’re practicing in the 1950s,” said Dr. Eric Ball, a pediatrician in southern Orange County, where some schools report that 50 to 60 percent of their kindergartners are not fully vaccinated and that 20 to 40 percent of parents have sought a personal beliefs exemption to vaccination requirements. “It’s very frustrating. It’s hard to see a kid suffer for something that’s entirely preventable.”

Two of Dr. Ball’s patients are unvaccinated girls who became sick with the measles last week, though they had not been at Disneyland and it was unclear how they had been infected. Their father called the clinic to tell Dr. Ball and has been sending digital photographs of the girls, their faces stippled with red dots, to update him on how they are doing.

Dr. Ball said he spent many days trying to persuade parents to vaccinate their children. He tries to alleviate their concerns. He shows parents his own children’s vaccine records. But it has not worked, and lately, as worries and anger over this outbreak have spread, some families who support vaccines have said they do not want to be in the same waiting room as unvaccinated families. The clinic where Dr. Ball works has treated unvaccinated children for years, but its staff is meeting next week to discuss a ban.

“Our patients are really scared,” Dr. Ball said. “Our nightmare would be for someone to show up at our door with the measles.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that measles cases soared last year to 644, many more than in any other year in more than a decade. Since Jan. 1, the C.D.C. has confirmed 84 measles cases in 14 states. California’s health agency, which is updating a measles count more frequently, has reported 91 cases, with the biggest number, 27, here in Orange County.