Sue Gimpel and Lisa Dubois are both mothers of three.
They want what?s best for their children, which is why one mom will be vaccinating her children against the swine flu virus and the other mom will not.
Their decisions illustrate the concerns many parents have about the vaccine for swine flu, also known as H1N1, and about vaccinations in general.
In the North Bay, which has some of the highest rates of non-immunized children in California, the swine flu vaccine taps into fears that such inoculations pose health risks beyond the disease for which it is being administered.
Public health and school officials are ramping up their outreach efforts to counter such concerns, asserting that declining to vaccinate a child could expose them to swine flu and even the risk of dying.
Those risks were underscored in August when a 14-year-old El Molino High School student from Graton died after becoming ill with swine flu. He was the sixth Sonoma County resident to die after contracting the disease.
Dubois, who lives in Hidden Valley Lake in Lake County, said she will be giving her youngest ? Isabella, 6, and Zachary, 5 ? the swine flu vaccination just as she has given them flu shots every year that they were available. The kids also are fully immunized against childhood diseases such as measles.
?Anything can go wrong with any kind of shot,? said Dubois, an administrative assistant in a realty firm. ?But if my pediatrician, who I?ve been with for 17 years, says this is what?s best for the kids, then we go for it.?
Dr. Fred Brewer, a pediatrician with Sutter Medical Group of the Redwoods, said many parents had been comfortable skipping yearly flu shots for their kids in the belief?that the odds of?contracting the disease were relatively low.
That?s changed, he said, with?predictions that as much as 60 percent of the U.S. population could contract the flu this year. ?They say, ?Let?s get the shot,?? he said.
Brewer, whose diagnosis of swine flu in a 10-year-old?boy was confirmed by test results on Monday, said he tells parents the vaccine is safe.
?If you could avoid being sick for a week ... with a shot, would you do it?" he asked rhetorically.
But Gimpel, a full-time Sebastopol mom, said she won?t give the vaccine to her two youngest, 15-year-old Tori and 10-year-old Jake, fearing it poses more risk than the actual flu virus.
?I feel that I?m exposing them to a potentially fatal disease or chronic illness by giving them the vaccination,? she said. ?We all take our chances in life and there are many risks, but to actually impose it (the vaccine) is very different.?
Gimpel?s son is a student at Sebastopol Independent Charter School, where 75 percent of kindergartners last fall were exempted by their parents from receiving vaccinations. That?s second in Sonoma County to Sunridge Charter, also in Sebastopol, and nearly 40 times greater than the statewide exemption rate of 1.9 percent.
The percentage of fully immunized students entering Sonoma County kindergarten classes has steadily dipped from 91.6 percent in 2002 to 87.7 percent last fall, according to state records. The statewide average is down by 0.6 points over the same period.
In nine county school districts, six of them in the west county, the percentage of fully immunized kindergartners is less than 80 percent, a Public Health Department analysis said. The figures exclude private schools.