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Robo-calls are new weapon against 'wildfire' measles spread

A major California insurer isn't waiting for reluctant parents to vaccinate their kids for measles—it's getting on the phone to urge them to do so.

Spurred by a troubling outbreak of measles traced to Disneyland in California, the Kaiser Permanente health care system is reportedly launching a wave of robo-calls to members around the state who haven't yet vaccinated their kids.

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Nearly 90 people in seven states and Mexico have been infected in the measles outbreak, including 30 babies that have been placed in isolation near San Francisco. The vast majority of cases occurred in people who weren't vaccinated, and the outbreak has spurred renewed debate over the controversial practice by some parents to avoid vaccinating their children.

California has a number of areas with high rates of unvaccinated kids, according to the Los Angeles Daily News, which reported the robo-call plan by Kaiser Permanante, which both sells health plans and operates hospitals and doctors' offices.

A doctor prepares to administer a measles vaccination to a child.
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"We have a sizable, affluent, educated population who have done their research and have made their decision that they are against the vaccine," Dr. Margaret Stone, chief of pediatric medicine at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Woodland Hills, told the newspaper.

Stone said that the measles outbreak "has provided us with an opportunity to bring up the discussion of how, when you have a sizable number of unvaccinated children, these illnesses can take hold of that population and spread like wildfire."

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Another physician, Dr. Jayvee Regala, told the Daily News, "I think the problem is there's no fear of measles right now."

"In 2000, a half a million died of measles worldwide and people here don't see it," said Regala, a pediatrician with Facey Medical Group in Northridge, California.

Read the Los Angeles Daily News story here.