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Thursday, October 20, 2016

California parents are refusing to vaccinate their kindergartners at twice the rate of seven years ago. So the Los Angeles Times reports. The result has been the return of measles and other serious diseases that can lead to paralysis, birth defects and death. The state is now suffering a whooping cough epidemic — it’s amazing to say — in the year 2015.

But the real shocker in the story is this: The rise in “personal belief exemptions” — a loophole in the law requiring parents to have their children vaccinated — is highest in rich coastal and mountain areas. For example, an astounding 23 percent of students at the Santa Cruz Montessori obtained belief exemptions and are not vaccinated.

These prosperous communities are heavily influenced by the organic/natural foods culture — about which there is much good to say. However, the alternative-lifestyle package often includes a hostility to mainstream science based largely on myth, lies and susceptibility to hucksters exploiting fear of modernity.

As such, these generally progressive “anti-vaxxers,” for all their educated airs, bear a resemblance to religious conservatives who reject the theory of evolution. Both groups regard the scientific authorities as just another untrustworthy source — and find charlatans with degrees to contradict them.

The suspicion of vaccination got its biggest boost from junk science spread by a British doctor, Andrew Wakefield. In 1998, he published a paper in the medical journal The Lancet holding that autism may be caused by the common vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella.

Wakefield’s work was subsequently found to be scientific quackery. Lawyers suing vaccine makers funded some of it. The Lancet retracted the paper, and Britain has stripped Wakefield of his right to practice medicine there.

The damage, however, has not been undone. Measles, which in 2000 had virtually disappeared in this country, is back. And it is highly infectious.

Public health officials went on high alert after a college student with measles proceeded to travel on Bay Area Rapid Transit trains, exposing thousands. The unvaccinated student, enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley, had apparently picked up the disease while traveling through Asia.

Measles kills 2 out of every 1,000 children who get it, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In pregnant women, it causes premature and low-weight births.

Immunization need not reach 100 percent to keep a population safe from widespread outbreaks. But for such easily transmitted diseases as measles and whooping cough, it must be high, at least 92 percent.

The parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated are incomprehensible. A mother of three unvaccinated children attending public school in Orange County told an LA Times reporter that the family believes in staying healthy “from the inside out.” That means taking vitamins and supplements and avoiding genetically modified foods. Thus, vaccination not needed. Good Lord.

But perhaps more unfathomable are the three-quarters of the parents at the fancy Santa Cruz Montessori school who did obtain shots for their little ones and kept them there. Why would they want their children in a school where poor-country illnesses may threaten pregnant women and infants who visit?

There’s also the quaint notion of shared responsibility for the public health. Such arguments get drowned in the nasty propaganda of anti-vaccination groups with neutral names. We speak of the National Vaccine Information Center, which the American Academy of Pediatrics says abuses science and, through its message, puts others at risk.

These “personal belief exemptions” are largely baloney. If they can’t be limited, they should be ended. Parents refusing to protect their own children are bad enough. Letting them expose others to serious and easily preventable disease is outrageous.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at [email protected] To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at

Photo: Grook Da Oger via Wikimedia Commons

  • Paul Bass

    Anti-Vaccine hysteria was rampart in the autism community after Dr. Wakefield’s lies were published in 1998. I have an autistic child.

    Best practices now space out the ~ 7 vaccines children get over several years. Also Thermisol (sp?) a mercury based preservative is no longer used in the MMR vaccine in America, which had also been brought up as a concern about these vaccines.

    • Allan Richardson

      No one knows what specifically causes autism, or more properly, what causes the brain to develop further on the autism spectrum than is normal for most people. But one recent theory, backed up by some of the statistics, is that autism is an extreme form of the detachment from emotion that helps to solve problems rationally and scientifically. In other words, it may be an extreme side effect of the kind of intelligence needed to be successful in a technically sophisticated world. And considering that intelligent people (who may be “carriers” of more pro-autism genes, and have the ability to think in a “controlled autistic” manner when necessary) tend to marry and have children with other intelligent people, it is possible (only POSSIBLE) that the best and brightest families in the population may ALREADY have a greater risk of having a child with autistic symptoms than do the less intelligent couples. More research is needed, but this has been proposed even in Scientific American.

      This only an educated SPECULATION, not an assertion of causality.

      • Paul Bass

        Thanks Allen, you are right, this is getting a lot of press in the AS community.
        The statistics for Autism among siblings, indicate that it is the interaction of 4 or 5 genes (the hereditary component) with some environmental exposure (the external component) to the fetus in utero.

  • Gary Miles

    The Author makes a fatal mistake at the beginning of the article, claiming that not vaccinating young children will cause birth defects. Just for info purposes, birth defects occur BEFORE birth and have nothing to do with vaccines.

    While takes away from the validity of the article, it is a good subject to discuss. Back in us older folks younger days, we were vaccinated, one shot for one disease. We didn’t have one shot for multiple diseases back then. Let’s put that as possible problem #1. The serious increase in Autism, as he discussed, hasn’t gone a way because a bunch of scientist’s paid by Big Pharma says so. Let’s face it, the results of science usually have much to do with who they are funded by, and both sides of the political spectrum claim so.

    Now for some actual facts. Desert Storm Syndrome has been linked to the experimental vaccine for anthrax. That is why those of us who have taken the vaccine have 100% health coverage from the VA. All of my health issues are assumed to be related to my service. Those are the key words used by the VA.

    I have studied that vaccine to the extent possible. My opinion, not based on what any doctors have said, is that the adjuvant was the probable problem. An adjuvant is a chemical used to make vaccines in larger numbers by strengthening a smaller amount of the actual vaccine into more doses. In the vaccines used in Desert Storm, the adjuvant Squaline was used. It reacted well with the vaccine part to basically make one dose into 50 doses. This is what happens to all vaccines, adjuvants are added to make more of the vaccine. It’s not a bad thing per se, and it would seem to be a good business idea where Big Pharma can make 50 times the money from one vaccine using a cheap adjuvant.

    Keep in mind, I write this based on my studies and one rather large article I penned and published several years ago on the subject. Let’s move forward, knowing that this is opinion, not scientific fact (except the adjuvant issue, that is proven) and everyone should read it as such.

    The CDC came out this year and said the flu shot won’t work, but you should still get one. That makes sense considering the source. I haven’t had a flu shot since 1988, the last year that I had the flu. I don’t get the common cold and haven’t since I was a kid. Due to my experiences, I won’t touch a vaccine. But that’s just me. You should make your own decisions about your own health choices.

    We all know, or should know, that diseases mutate. That could make vaccines useless as the vaccine doesn’t protect against the new mutated version. Diseases are a part of life and affect every living thing on earth. It can only be hoped to contain them because we can’t stop them. The author mentioned measles in his list of diseases that is making a comeback (wrongfully blaming those who are unvaccinated). About 85% of these measle victims have been vaccinated:
    Big Pharma stands to make billions when a new vaccine is needed to protect kids. They can claim that the disease mutated (I haven’t heard that about measles) because they will never want to admit they are not made to work forever, that would be bad for business.
    I suggest you make your own decisions about your health and your children’s health, Educate yourself to the extent possible so as to make an informed decision. The subject of Autism is still up in the air as to what is causing it. What I do know is that many parents have said that the symptoms of autism began AFTER getting a vaccine (MMR). There needs to be more studies and investigation on the subject, but if I were a new parent today I would have a hard time making the decision to give my young child something that MAY cause autism.
    Where we should all be careful in is continuing to ask the government take action. Growing the monster isn’t in anyone’s best interest.

    • Brian Harvill

      The author does NOT start the article by claiming a lack of vaccination will lead to birth defects. He states that it leads to disease which then will possibly lead to birth defects for THEIR children. Like me, many kids wait till later to contract childhood illness. I was 18 when I got chicken pox and 32 when I got whooping cough both illnesses being more violent for the later onset. Getting mumps later can turn a man sterile and getting measles can end in child defects because the parent was not properly vaccinated as a child. That’s what the author states at the beginning of his article. So let’s keep to the real story rather than making claims that are not true.

      • Gary Miles

        The result has been the return of measles and other serious diseases that can lead to paralysis, birth defects and death.
        You read it as implying about future generations, although nowhere in the article are the effects of future generations mentioned. But I can see how you can interpret it that way.

        • TZToronto

          It’s obvious that diseases can’t cause birth defects in the people who get the diseases. I really doubt that the author thinks that diseases act retroactively–unless the author is a Back to the Future fan.

        • Brian Harvill

          Thanks for keeping the replies above board. I am not trying to start an argument here as I hold to a rather strict natural lifestyle myself but the issue of vaccinations is simply a smart thing to do. As far as the interpretation goes, I would say that my interpretation is really the only rational one since you have pointed out that to think otherwise leads to some rather impossible situations with vaccination coming after birth and defects prior to birth. Thus it is quite obvious that any birth defects would have to be in the future tense of a person that was not vaccinated and contracted a childhood disease that leads to POSSIBLE birth defects, (since it is a fact that not all measles infections give rise to birth defects).
          I will however state that vaccinations are something tat should be monitored rather more strictly than they have been monitored and that vaccinations should not be considered to be a fix for life type of issue. Like I stated earlier, I contracted whooping cough when in my adult years and it was absolutely terrible and worse than if I had gotten it as a child. I had been vaccinated against it as well but as with most childhood vaccinations, the immunity that is granted tends to weaken over time and if you are also facing an immune disorder on top of that, it is essential that your immunizations be kept as up to date as is possible. It is now being stated that a later vaccination, say in the teen years, would help and I am a proponent of that. AND while I will always hold the choices of the parent to be the important and proper means of handling health decisions for their children, I would also state that it is the irresponsible parent that would NOT do everything possible to protect their child. There are going to be risks but that is part of life. The issue of autism is shown to NOT be due to vaccination issues but is more likely a reaction to something else altogether. So lets have a frank discussion rather than rumor and gossip… that is all that I am saying and remembering that while nature is good, it is also natural to use our brains to think of things such as vaccination programs and medications to help get over illness.
          Anyway, like I said before, I am not trying or intending to impugn you or your thoughts, just that we shouldn’t fall prey to fears when our children’s lives are at stake.

          • Gary Miles

            It’s all good Brian! I don’t see this as a political issue anyway, but more of a personal decision. I live in rural Pa with a large number of Amish. Guess what they don’t do? I have even asked my friend Sammy that question as I have watched him grow from a hard working boy to a hard working man with a family and his own farm.

            I have done a lot of research on the subject, as I have posted above. I once was taking 24 pills every day, via the VA. I will say that for 10 years I suffered because civilian doctors didn’t understand the problem. I have changed my diet dramatically since 2010, as I’m able to do many things living in the country versus the city. Plus, I’m an elderly caretaker in my home, so diet is quite important. There are many things that those who chose to not vaccinate that I can relate too. Eating organic, natural, home grown food has amazing results, for me and my 73 year old father. He’s on O2 24/7 and as long as I have been taking care of him he has not had the flu or a cold, much less anything worse.

            His sister, my Aunt is 71 and she suffers from dementia. The meds prescribed were expensive and did nothing to help. She lives in Florida and we send her coconut oil pills. She is remarkably better and improving everyday. She no longer takes the expensive medicine. Her doctor agreed!

            My thinking about others is “live and let live”. I hold no issues with what people chose, until it affects my rights and choices. Once that happens they have crossed a line they do not belong. That goes for government. Despite the VA’s problems, I have mostly been treated quite well, so the ACA doesn’t really affect me, but I despise the fact that government is demanding that the people purchase something. It crosses the line of being governed to being ruled, in my humble opinion.

            Thank You as well for polite discussion, you have my respect and I extend my best wishes to you and your family!

          • Paul Bass

            Hey Gary, good luck w/ your dad. It’s amazing how much diet can affect the (good) outcome for these (mental) health issues. They make a heck of a difference with my autistic son. You have a fantastic day.

          • Gary Miles

            Thanks Paul. I know a lot of families with autistic children. There is tons or speculation on the cause, but no true answers yet. It’s moving much closer to epidemic proportions each year. I’m always looking for and reading articles on natural cures, or at least something that is actually helping. If I come across anything where autism is concerned, I will seek you out to pass along the info.

          • dpaano

            I’ve read that autism has been found to be caused by environmental factors. All I know is that when I was young (in the 1950’s), we never heard of autism. Now, with all the pollution in the air, we suddenly have an influx of children with autism. To my way of thinking, vaccinations have NOTHING to do with autism….but, then again, that’s just my opinion, and I can’t remember where I read about autism and the environment, but it was in a scientific periodical. As a note, my doctor also agrees that this is a factor.

        • Allan Richardson

          There has been no evidence, and the article did not claim, that either vaccination or non-vaccination will cause defects in FUTURE generations, only in the ONE generation being gestated when the mother is infected with the disease. Rubella, also called German measles, is known to cause deafness in children whose mothers were exposed to it DURING pregnancy (and of course, catching a disease while pregnant compounds the symptoms and limits the treatment options).

          Yes, disease germs do mutate. But the germs which are most prevalent mutate the most, and those which are almost wiped out by a vaccine mutate the least. So the old standard childhood diseases, which do confer lifelong immunity on their survivors, as the cost of enduring the disease symptoms and the risk of death, continue to be preventable with their old standby vaccines. Flu, on the other hand, is so thoroughly endemic in its “reservoir” species such as farm animals that each year’s strain could conceivably be different from the last. If the first case is found long in advance of the annual “season” there will be time to make the proper vaccine for it; if a different strain then turns out to be the one spreading that season, it is too late to regrow the cultures from which all of those millions of doses were made. But since the previous year’s strain may still be around in some areas, it is still a good idea to get the shot — some protection is better than none.

  • FireBaron

    Hey, look at the bright side. By not vaccinating their children, these folks with too much money on their hands will be forced to home school, or hire nannies as instructors. I am sure the resultant product will be a loss of their family fortunes to their financial managers once these undereducated mooks gain control of Daddy’s company.

  • Chris Kay

    People love quick-fixes. Two main problems with over-vaccination: 1. It’s going to cause auto-immune disorders. Injecting close to 100 antigens into a baby within the first year of birth is going to mess up a lot of kids’ immune systems 2. Overuse of vaccines are resulting in more dangerous mutations of bacteria & virus. Good luck, dummies!