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Hoax Revelation Won't Change Mother's Mind About Autism And Vaccines

Poway mother Rebecca Estepp and her son Eric.
Poway mother Rebecca Estepp and her son Eric.

A Poway mother says a new report that further discredits the link between autism and vaccination won’t change her belief that her son’s autism was caused by immunization.

Rebecca Estepp’s 12-year-old Eric was diagnosed with autism when he was nearly 3 years old. But Estepp says her son’s health issues began immediately following routine vaccination when he was 9 months old.

“He hit all the milestones and then he got vaccinated, and within three hours he developed terrible diarrhea. He had a fever and was non-stop screaming and arching his back,” Estepp said.


In 1998, British researcher Dr. Andrew Wakefield published research claiming there was a link between the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine and autism. His work has since been discredited. Yet the belief that there is a connection lingers among some parents.

A new investigation, published yesterday, examined medical records of the children in the Wakefield study and found some of their information had been altered by the researcher and his colleagues.

The report is published in the online journal BMJ.

Estepp says she rolled her eyes when she heard the news of the report.

Estepp is a member of the San Diego chapter of Talk About Curing Autism -- a group that supports Wakefield’s research.


“Are they going to try and find his dog and run over him too? How much more could they do to him?” Estepp asked sarcastically.

Estepp believes the report will just cause parents on both sides of the debate to “dig in either further.”

Following Wakefield’s highly publicized report in the late '90s, immunization rates in Britain dropped from 92 percent to 73 percent, and were as low as 50 percent in some parts of London. The effect was not nearly as dramatic in the United States, but researchers have estimated that as many as 125,000 U.S. children born in the late 1990s did not get the MMR vaccine because of the Wakefield splash.

In California, parents can choose not to vaccinate their kids if they file personal exemption waivers. In San Diego County, 2.6 percent of kids entering kindergarten in 2009 have personal exemption waivers on file, slightly higher than the state average.

Corrected: April 13, 2024 at 3:39 AM PDT
The Associated Press contributed to this report.