Gisselle Avalos is making sure her 1-year-old son is protected against whooping cough after California's outbreak three years ago.
"It wasn't really a question for me, it was more like he has to get it," Avalos said.
A new study in Pediatrics finds a link between the outbreak and California communities, where large numbers of parents refused to vaccinate their children due to personal or religious beliefs. The epidemic killed 10 infants and sickened more than 9,000 people in the
"If you lived in a community that had higher rates of vaccine refusal, you are about twice as likely to experience a community outbreak of pertussis," said Dan Salmon, Deputy Director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Vaccine Safety.
Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a highly contagious, bacterial infection that causes severe coughing fits. Experts say refusing vaccination is not the only culprit behind recent outbreaks.
previous studies show vaccine protection wanes over time.
"After about five years the immunity is significantly less and so that's why we want to continue immunization at every 5 or 10 years," said Dr. Wilbert Mason, an infectious disease expert at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.
Babies can't be vaccinated until they're a few months old, and even then it takes months to build immunity.
"I just want him to be safe," Avalos said.
Since the epidemic, California passed a law that makes it harder for parents to opt out of vaccines for non-medical reasons.
Bigad Shaban - CBS News
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