If only Kathryn Riffenburg had gotten a booster shot during pregnancy, her son might have lived. But the baby got whooping cough, and was so badly swollen that his burial at nine weeks of age—in a white baptismal suit and hat—was in a closed casket. "It just seemed like it was impossible," said 31-year-old Riffenburg, who didn't know about getting revaccinated. And she's not alone: Recent measles outbreaks in three states show what might happen on a bigger scale if enough people refuse vaccinations, some for philosophical and religious reasons, USA Today reports.
Fewer than 1% of Americans avoid all vaccines, but the anti-vaccine movement has grown thanks to celebrity endorsements and the debunked notion that vaccines cause autism. Some states have responded by making it harder to get vaccine exemptions, and doctors in one Virginia town are refusing to take new patients who won't vaccinate their children. In Canada, officials are linking two disease outbreaks to Dutch Reformers and Mennonites, who refuse vaccinations, the National Post reports. But 19 US states allow "personal belief" exemptions, reports Guardia, and anti-vaccine advocates are standing firm: "I wasn't scared by it," says a Tampa, Fla., mother whose three kids all recovered from whooping cough. "Infectious diseases do help children strengthen their bodies."