SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Less than 10 percent of Americans chose not to vaccinate their children, and many of them face fierce criticism from other parents. One local mother who has decided not to vaccinate her child talks to CBS News 8 about the reasons behind her decision.
When asked if there's a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, the majority of doctors will say there's no evidence to prove such a theory. But Rebecca Estepp sees it differently.
"I don't think every case of autism is related to vaccines, but I think an awful lot are," she said.
Including her first born son. Rebecca says Eric was healthy and happy when he was born January 1998. But that soon changed after he received a Hepatitis B shot at nine months old. Rebecca says within hours, he developed a fever followed by severe diarrhea and what one doctor later described as a sign of brain swelling.
"Where he cried and just arched his back," Rebecca said.
Weeks later he started getting sick, all the time.
"Every cold, every virus, every hand foot and mouth disease, things that were bizarre," she said.
Then after receiving his first measles, MMR vaccine at 12 months old, the symptoms continued, and Eric's attention began to waver. His skin turned pale and he constantly wanted to play with string.
"The strings on the drapes... he would just go over and over," she said.
Rebecca says she didn't need a doctor to figure out what was wrong.
"I looked up autism in the 'What to expect the first year' and there was a chart and I could put a check in every single box," she said.
Rebecca showed us home video of Eric at seven months, then at 14 months. She says the changes are clear.
That's why when her second son was born, she chose to forgo any and all vaccines after he turned 6 months old, saying he too got sick following his initial shots.
"He never got the MMR, which I'm afraid could have pushed him over the edge," she said. "And I honestly think that any parent in our situation would make the same decision."
Rebecca believes her sons had existing auto-immune disorders, which combined with ingredients in the vaccines, had dangerous results. But most people say Rebecca is the one who's dangerous. She is part of the 8 percent of parents in this country who do not vaccinate their children.
Many doctors say that's why measles -- which was considered eradicated in 2000 -- is back. On Sunday, the CDC announced concerns over an even bigger outbreak. On Monday, President Obama weighed in.
Despite all that, Rebecca is standing her ground. Her hope is that doctors perform more studies on children who became sick after receiving certain vaccines. She also wants parents to have a choice on separating the MMR over the course of several weeks, as opposed to receiving it in one day -- something that may make her reconsider her stance.
"It's three live viruses given in one day. That can wreak havoc on an immature immune system," she said.
As for those concerned about being around her children, she says there's no reason to feel that way.
"Because if the vaccines are working like they say they are, those kids should be safe. It's me who's taking the risk, but it's a calculated risk," she said.
Rebecca says the negativity has been difficult. She's been called names, and has lost friends over this.
Again, not many people agree with her views. In fact, nearly every doctor we've interviewed has said to get your child vaccinated, and that there's no link between the MMR vaccine and autism.