Oh, rich people. Do they ever stop doing zany things? Unfortunately, there’s a new fad among America’s most wealthy that isn’t quite as laughable. During recent years, the richest people in Los Angeles have not been vaccinating their children.
Gary Baum of The Hollywood Reporter has investigated childhood illness and vaccination rates around Los Angeles County. He discovered that some schools in the most affluent L.A neighborhoods have vaccination rates lower than Southern Sudan. Let that sink in for a minute; one of the poorest regions in the world that is unable to supply clean drinking water for half of its inhabitants has a greater vaccination rate than schools that educate the offspring of Hollywood’s elite.
Vaccination records must be submitted to schools at the time of a child’s enrollment. Otherwise, the parent can file a “personal belief exemption” (PBE) claim, which absolves them of that responsibility. Some parents have filed PBEs, even though their child is vaccinated, due to an inability to find the records following a move, or if the child’s records are due before they can get an appointment and get up to speed. However, a bill passed this year now requires a physician signature on all PBEs and immunization records, so those filing them out of convenience will not be able to continue to do so.
Baum found that over the last two years, the number of PBEs filed in L.A County has increased by 2.2 percent overall, but some of the most elite preschools have jumped by 57-68 percent during that same time span. He also made the not-so-shocking discovery that the schools with the lowest vaccination rates had the highest instances of childhood diseases including measles and whooping cough.
California had an outbreak of whooping cough earlier this year that reached epidemic proportions, resulting in the death of three infants. Measles rates in the area are higher than they have been in over 20 years.
Of course, not everyone can be vaccinated. Certain immunocompromised individuals are unable to receive the vaccines even if they desperately wanted to. Instead of gaining protection through the vaccines, they rely on their peers to provide herd immunity and cull the spread of diseases. However, when less than 94 percent of a group is vaccinated, herd immunity falls apart and could have fatal consequences. Certain elite schools in L.A are flirting with that barrier, if they haven’t already crossed it.
Baum found that most of the parents eschewing vaccines completely or who are not following the timetable put forward by the CDC have good intentions, but lack of scientific evidence to back up their position, which is creating an incredible problem. Severe adverse reactions because of vaccinations are exceedingly rare, and there is no scientific evidence to suggest that vaccines are linked to autism. Skipping vaccines due to scientific illiteracy is maddening nonsense. Children’s lives are on the line, and hopefully this trend will reverse before it is too late.