by Alex Pareene
Paloma Esquivel and Sandra Poindexter of the L.A. Times report that America’s idiot rich are bringing back measles and whooping cough, thanks to the widespread popularity of stupid conspiracy theories about the supposed dangers of vaccines, and California’s lax “personal belief” exemptions from vaccine requirements for school children. Hundreds of California schools now have vaccine exemption rates of higher than 8 percent, the level at which “herd immunity” from infectious diseases breaks down.
As Michael Hiltzik emphasizes, the rise in exemptions from vaccine requirements is driven almost entirely by wealthy parents:
A Times analysis of the state figures found that the growth in personal-belief exemptions was particularly prevalent at private schools: Nearly 1 in 4 of those kindergartens reported at least 8% of their students were exempt from at least one vaccine last fall because of personal belief. In 2007, that figure was just 1 in 10. The rate for public school kindergartners last fall also more than doubled to 11% from 5% in 2007.
In Los Angeles County, the rise in personal belief exemptions is most prominent in wealthy coastal and mountain communities, The Times analysis shows. The more than 150 schools with exemption rates of 8% or higher for at least one vaccine were located in census tracts where the incomes averaged $94,500 — nearly 60% higher than the county median.
When will rich Californian community leaders finally address their endemic culture of ignorance, instead of always blaming outside forces like “pharmaceutical companies” and “doctors” and “established medical science” for their problems? The vaccine panic, like 9/11 Trutherism, is a conspiracy theory with more appeal to the left than the right.
Its villain is not Big Government but Big Pharma. Jenny McCarthy, the most prominent voice of the anti-vaccine movement, had her dangerous nonsense amplified by the explicitly liberal media (specifically, Oprah Winfrey and the Huffington Post). For American liberalism, a political movement that regularly declares itself “pro-science,” this is more than a bit embarrassing. (See also: All crunchy rich liberal discussion of “toxins” and “non-celiac gluten sensitivity,” which probably doesn’t exist, or at least which is probably caused by something other than gluten.)
Of course, if the government were to get involved – say, by eliminating the “personal belief” exemption entirely (something that should happen, to be clear) – I’m sure the right would suddenly find common cause with the deluded liberals behind the anti-vaccine movement. Indeed, Michele Bachmann already flirted with anti-vaccine rhetoric during her 2011 run for the presidency. (Maybe this is the issue Republicans can use to finally close the gender gap!)
Not vaccinating your child puts other children at risk. If there’s one situation in which I’m entirely in favor of jack-booted nanny-state government shock troops telling people what they can and can’t do with their bodies, it’s this.