Rhett Krawitt, of Corte Madera, received the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine on Friday. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)
Rhett Krawitt, of Corte Madera, received the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine on Friday at the Prima Medical Group in Greenbrae. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

It’s been a big week for 7-year-old Rhett Krawitt.

On Tuesday, he stood on a folding chair at the podium to address his southern Marin school district’s board members and urged them to adopt a resolution in favor of ending the vaccine “personal belief exemption” in California. Television news crews lined one side of the auditorium. Rhett is recovering from cancer, and he’s become the face of the importance of widespread vaccination.

Because Rhett is recovering from years of chemotherapy, he’s been unable to be vaccinated. His immune system wasn’t strong enough.

Until now.

This week, Rhett went in for a check up, and his family learned that he is now able to be immunized. On Friday, Rhett got the first round of vaccines.

“It’s such a milestone for us. It’s such a marking point in how far we’ve come.” said Rhett’s mother, Jodi Krawitt, in reference to Rhett being one year from the end of his treatment. She said she had wondered, “Would we ever get to this day? And here we are.”

Among the three shots Rhett received, perhaps the most important was the “MMR” — measles, mumps, rubella. This first of two doses offers 95 percent protection against measles, the disease of greatest concern to the Krawitts in light of the ongoing outbreak in California.

“It’s a lot of emotions altogether,” Jodi Krawitt said. “It’s one of those things you think you’d never get excited about, getting a shot.”

Carl and Jodi gained national attention after their story was first told on State of Health. They advocate a change in state policy to eliminate the personal belief exemption which permits parents to lawfully send their children to school unvaccinated.

Rhett had been vaccinated against many illnesses before he was diagnosed with leukemia when he was two. But three years of chemotherapy wiped out the protection of the vaccines. While he was undergoing chemotherapy, his parents kept him isolated to protect him, they said. He missed years of pre-school.

But he was well enough to start kindergarten on time, when he was five.

Then came a new fear — measles. Rhett, and anyone else with a weak immune system, relies on herd immunity. That’s when so many people in a community, such as a school, are vaccinated, that if a disease is introduced, it cannot spread. While the overwhelming majority of parents in Marin vaccinate their children, the county has a personal belief exemption rate triple the statewide average, 6.45 percent. Pockets within the county have refusal rates significantly higher.

While Rhett’s parents are delighted by their son’s recovery, their commitment to the importance of vaccination goes on. “This is not about Rhett,” Carl Krawitt said, “It’s about the expecting mothers, children under one, [too young to be vaccinated against some diseases] and hundreds of kids across the Bay Area going through chemotherapy.”

Herd immunity protects immunocompromised adults, too, including people being treated for cancer or people living with HIV.

Parents Relieved as Son Gets First Post-Leukemia Vaccines 18 February,2015Lisa Aliferis

  • boonfrisker89

    Thank goodness. Now he’s protected against the 0 current infectious measles cases in Marin county.

  • DucDucGoose

    lets not mince words —> VACCINES CAUSE AUTISM.

    • derrick

      Where’s your proof? BE SPECIFIC!
      I dare you to point to ONE credible source showing vaccines cause autism.

      • HomebirthMomma

        Read the inserts to the vaccines, Derrick. If you truly care about children’s health, you will do the work.

      • Beck

        Look up mercury poisoning. Sound familiar? Yeah it sounds like what we call autism. Mercury (renamed thermosaul) is an ingredient in vaccines. I guess it’s a coincidence that with the rise of vaccinations we also have a rise in autism…?

    • HomebirthMomma

      And childhood leukemia.

  • Sydney Clark

    Wow, when does the poisoning for this poor kid end? His parents should be jailed.

  • Melissa

    I feel so sorry for this kid. He was poisoned with vaccines, which probably caused his cancer. Now he is getting poisoned again! When will people learn?!?

    • derrick

      You STUPID person. Where’s your credible source? Playboy playmate and fired View co-host Jenny McCarthy doesn’t count?
      You should be ashamed for spreading such ignorance, you IDIOT!

      • DJK

        And always the Jenny McCarthy argument. The vaccine maker lists this as an adverse event. Where do you get YOURinformation? Penn & Teller? Oh, by the way, boy’s grandpa is a vaccine consultant for GSK, so if you don’t think that this guy isn’t being used as a pawn by his parents, think again.
        Poor kid.

      • Cathy McMahan

        http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/167/5/598.long

        Risk of Childhood Leukemia Associated with Vaccination, Infection, and Medication Use in Childhood
        The Cross-Canada Childhood Leukemia Study

        • derrick

          Did you read those studies? Those are QUACK studies with no credibility. You should be ashamed of yourself.

          • WVMountainMama

            I am just curious as to what constitutes a quack study?

        • derrick

          I’ll take the word of the CDC, FDA and EVERY medical association in America over your quackery. Your STUPIDITY is astonishing.
          I bet you think the earth is flat.

          • Kathi Ringue Mattea

            REALLY You’ll trust the CDC even though they’re in bed with pharmaceutical companies, being the largest purchaser of vaccines as well as promoter of them? tinyurl.com/asrnarticle The CDC, tinyurl.com/kennedycdclies who has a Senior Research Scientist prepared to testify before congress regarding being forced to falsify studies to show that Thimerasol was safe, as well as omitting statistically significant data from a report that declared there is no connection between mmr vaccines and autism. They actually found a connection, changed protocol to make it go away, then finally just omitted the data altogether. YEAH, real trustworthy. Maybe you trust in the pharmaceutical safety studies that say their products are safe. FDA does and approves their drugs, but then has to pull them off market when the real data, serious complications in real people, occurs. OOPS! GSK got in some trouble and had to pay 3 billion in fines, admitting the study they ran didn’t show the results they wanted, so they MADE IT UP! http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/glaxosmithkline-plead-guilty-and-pay-3-billion-resolve-fraud-allegations-and-failure-report

          • boonfrisker89

            “Angry people tend to curse, swear, or speak in highly colorful terms that reflect their inner thoughts. When you’re angry, your thinking can get very exaggerated and overly dramatic. Try replacing these thoughts with more rational ones.”

          • Beck

            Hate to break it to you, but back in the day when thy did believe the earth was flat, I guarantee you would be the one mocking the “earth is round” theory…

          • derrick

            You’re an idiot. Go away.

          • Beck

            You realize that every drug that’s been pulled from the market due to being too dangerous had the CDCs mark of approval on it…? Read the side effects on the drugs and vaccines they have approved and maybe you’ll realize just how little the CDC cares if you live or die from their stuff.

      • boonfrisker89

        “I’m concerned that some vaccine advocates and doctors have been labeling people who aren’t vaccinated as ‘selfish’ or ‘dumb’ during coverage of the Disneyland outbreak. We need to maintain and strengthen the consensus around vaccination, but the most effective way to do so isn’t by polarizing and dividing people. The vast majority of parents who don’t vaccinate are intelligent and well-meaning people who are trying to do what’s best for their children. We need to help them make better choices, not ridicule them.”

  • Grace

    I wonder if they kept HIM away from the immunocompromised for the up to 6 weeks that he’ll now be shedding the disease to potentially everyone he comes into contact with? Lol probably not. It would be ironic if he spread the disease he was vaccinated for to someone after being given the shot. Don’t believe me? Look at the manufacturer insert. No, I won’t do your work for you.

  • HomebirthMomma

    This is a huge, huge mistake. They vaccinated an already compromised immune system. Do they really think he will attain any protection from vaccines? I guess Granddaddy’s pocket book is more important than this child’s health?

  • Kathi Ringue Mattea

    I’m glad he’s doing so well with his recovery. I can’t imagine how hard this ordeal must have been on him and his family. I’m really curious though why they didn’t start standing up for mandatory vaccination before little Rhett went to school, or why they even put him in school before he was vaccinated given his precarious health and the ordeal they’d been through as a family. With the Enterovirus scare that went around in the summer (no vaccine for that) and all the other cold and flu viruses that are spread around, especially in a kindergarten setting, I can’t imagine putting my immune compromised child into that environment.
    Interesting that his father spoke out ONLY when the measles outbreak occurred. What better story to pull at the heartstrings than a young recovering cancer patient who can’t afford to get measles (but apparently can afford to get the flu, enterovirus D68 and all the other rhinoviruses that spread in schools) Interesting also that his father works for GlaxoSmithKlein as a vaccine manufacturing consultant. I can just imagine how this played out at work. I wonder if there was a bonus in it for him to trot his son out in such a way. And wouldn’t you know it, two weeks after testifying before congress about his fears, his boy is getting vaccinated. Yeah, nothing fishy with this story.

  • Cathy McMahan

    no brains here, wow that is caused from vaccines in the first place

    • Cathy McMahan

      Risk of Childhood Leukemia Associated with Vaccination, Infection, and Medication Use in Childhood
      The Cross-Canada Childhood Leukemia Study http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/167/5/598.long

      • This study cited above shows that many vaccines actually have a protective effect on the risk of childhood leukemia. From the study: “Decreased risks of leukemia have been associated with measles vaccination, DTP vaccination, Haemophilus influenzaetype B (Hib) vaccination, and BCG vaccination for tuberculosis.”

  • thevaccinemachine

    Carl Krawitt is both reprehensible and incredibly selfish for using his child as a tool to force unwanted vaccines on other kids

  • Pingback: What About the Immunocompromised? - Fearless Parent()

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Lisa Aliferis

Lisa Aliferis is the founding editor of KQED's State of Health blog. Since 2011, she's been writing and editing stories for the site. Before taking up blogging, she toiled for many years (more than we can count) producing health stories for television, including Dateline NBC and San Francisco's CBS affiliate, KPIX-TV. She also wrote up a handy guide to the Affordable Care Act, especially for Californians. Her work has been honored for many awards. Most recently she was a finalist for "Best Topical Reporting" from the Online News Association. You can follow her on Twitter: @laliferis

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