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"The fear is real for parents, and it overshadows the research," she said. "This is my hometown. This is where I grew up. I care about the community here. I just really would like to not make this a browbeating issue."
Harding is suspicious of the need to inject so many vaccines into small children. She stopped vaccinating her son, Frank, after his first shot as a baby triggered hours of crying. Her daughter, Stella, got a tetanus shot, but that is all.
Until now, Tyre Dawn has depended on organic food and plenty of playtime outdoors to keep her 4-year-old son, Lukyan, healthy. But she is planning to open a preschool in the spring, and with so many children around, she is now rethinking her policy.
"It is essential in these times for everyone to look more closely at the choices they are making," she said.
Jennifer Margulis moved here with her husband and three kids from Massachusetts, where her mother is a cellular biologist and member of the National Academy of Sciences. Though she chuckles at some of Ashland's personality quirks, she embraces the city's strong sense of community and many people's distrust of mainstream medicine.
"I never questioned the efficacy or intelligence of doing vaccines until I was in the hospital with my newborn daughter and a doctor tried to get me to give her hepatitis B vaccine," she said. "Hepatitis B is a sexually transmitted disease. I knew I didn't have hepatitis B. I knew my husband didn't have it. I knew there was no way she would come in contact with anyone with hepatitis B.
"You have this tiny, frog-like baby and they want to shoot her up with things."
Afterward, Margulis' pediatrician supported her choice. "I decided it was my responsibility as a parent to research each and every vaccine to make an informed, intelligent decision, not to just follow what doctors told me," she said.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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