There has been some progress in the vaccine wars. More children are receiving vaccines and therefore more are protected from disease.
In an earlier post, The Vaccine Hysteria, I reported on the war being waged against vaccines by well-meaning but misinformed parents. As a result of grossly incompetent research wrongly connecting vaccines with autism reported in 1998 by British doctor Andrew Wakefield, many parents of young children came to believe they should not vaccinate their children.
This hysteria was fanned by celebrities like Jenny McCarthy, former Playboy model, whose own child developed autism. As a result, the bogus research of Wakefield, since strongly discredited, was accepted as scientific fact. Vaccination levels began a steady decline, especially in higher income communities and particularly in liberal precincts.
The unsurprising outcome of these declining vaccination levels was outbreaks of measles, especially at Disneyland in California, in New York City, mumps in Columbus, Ohio near Ohio State University and whooping cough in California.
Tougher Vaccination Laws
As a direct result of those outbreaks last year, several states have passed laws strengthening their vaccination rules. Nina Shapiro, writing in The Wall Street Journal, reports that California recently joined west Virginia and Mississippi in requiring a medical exemption from a physician to permit a child to enter school without being immunized.
These stronger laws eliminate “loop holes” like “personal choice” or “religious objections” as legitimate excuses. Now all children in public school will be vaccinated unless their doctor believes there is a valid medical reason for them not being vaccinated.
Such valid medical reasons would include the following:
- Weakened immune system – such as a child receiving chemotherapy or on long-term steroids for a chronic condition
- Previous serious allergic reactions such as seizures or severe rashes (occur about one in every 100,000 cases)
Since the risk of death is about one in every 1,000 cases of measles, parents should be wary of requesting a medical exemption without strong evidence of an increased risk. Yet many doctors will surely be pressured by poorly informed parents seeking vaccination waivers.
When vaccination rates are high, those in the community who cannot be vaccinated, because of a demonstrable medical condition, are protected. This is called “herd immunity.” To establish herd immunity, vaccination rates must be very high – up to 95% or better. In the U.S. at large, the numbers are pretty good, with close to 95% of incoming kindergartners in compliance with vaccine guidelines, according to a 2013 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) survey.
However, vaccination rates vary widely from state to state. Mississippi leads the nation with 99.9% for MMR and diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus (DPT). But others are not so good; California just 92.7% (MMR) and 92.5% (DPT). Colorado is the worst in the nation at 85.7% and 82.9%.
California has just taken the necessary steps to improve its vaccination rates. Credit should be given to the usually liberal California legislature and uber-liberal governor Jerry Brown for showing some leadership on this critical issue, despite pressure from the left. Now, if other states will follow, and parents will comply, the children in all states will be better protected.