A mum whose son nearly died from measles after she chose not to vaccinate is calling on other parents to reconsider whether they have made the right decision for their kids.
Ally Edwards-Lasenby decided not to get her second child, Cameron, his MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) shots as a study had come out linking the vaccine to autism.
That study was later roundly debunked and the doctor who carried it out was struck off the medical register for dishonesty and unethical behaviour.
But Edwards-Lasenby still didn't get Cameron his shots - a decision she came to regret when he came down with a life-threatening case of measles at 13.
She is calling for parents who are hesitant around vaccines or have made a decision not to vaccinate in the past to keep researching and checking they have the most up-to-date information.
"My biggest mistake, and the message that I've been sharing since, has been that if you make a decision based on the information that you have at the time, it's really important to revisit that," she told NZME's The Hits radio station today.
"I didn't do that and consequently my son contracted the measles virus and he was the first hospitalised case in the Waikato. And it was not a very pleasant experience at all."
Cameron got sick in mid-2011, and was twice diagnosed with the flu.
But after he became lethargic, developed a rash and conjunctivitis, Edwards-Lasenby took him back to the doctor who they took one look and said "You can get him to hospital faster than we can get an ambulance here".
She drove "like a madwoman" to Waikato Hospital where he was put in isolation.
He kept deteriorating. The doctors started talking about the possibility of brain damage - and told her Cameron could die.
"It was frightening - my 13-year-old son was disappearing before my eyes," Edwards-Lasenby said.
"You think with these diseases and doctors and the medical profession as it is that they would miraculously appear with some sort of treatment to make this stop, but that doesn't happen."
Cameron recovered, but developed pneumonia. For the next 12 months, his immune system was compromised and he was frequently off school as he caught every bug that was going round.
Edwards-Lasenby believes Cameron would not have been in hospital if she had got him his MMR shots.
"I played Russian roulette with my son's health which I'm not proud of," she said - though her son understands she did her best with the information she had at the time.
There was a risk with vaccines but it was "minimal", she said.
"I think what we went through i wouldn't wish that on anybody. I strongly believe in immunising."
MEASLES: THE FACTS
• Measles is a highly contagious viral illness that causes skin rash and fever. It spreads easily through the air by sneezing or coughing.
• Between 1-2 cases in every 1000 are fatal. Measles kills more than 50 per cent of children with low immunity, such as cancer patients.
• Symptoms usually begin to show 10-14 days after infection.
• The illness begins with fever, cough, runny nose and conjunctivitis (inflammation in the eyes), lasting 2-4 days.
• A rash appears 2-4 days after the first symptoms, beginning at the hairline and spreading down the body. The rash lasts up to one week.
• You can have measles and spread it to others before you feel sick or show symptoms. You can spread measles to others from five days before until five days after your rash appears.
• Measles can be caught by breathing the same air as an infected person, such as sitting next to them on the bus. The virus can live up to two hours in an airspace where an infected person coughed or sneezed. It also spreads by contact with surfaces contaminated with an infected person's nose and throat secretions.
• If you have been near someone with measles, and don't know if you're immune, seek medical advice immediately and stay in quarantine at home.
•The best protection against measles is to get two doses of the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine.
• Babies can get their first dose at 12 months in Auckland and 15 months elsewhere.
• The vaccine is free for under-50s; older people are presumed to be immune.
• Many teens and young people don't have records of their vaccinations. They may have had only one shot or none at all.
• If you're unsure whether you're fully vaccinated, check with your doctor. An extra dose of the MMR vaccine is not harmful.