The vaccination villification

In Opinion

Vaccination among private school children is on the decline and, as the issue of childhood immunization evolves from a philosophical debate to a public health crisis, the time has come to take action.

According to a report published last week by the Associated Press, children who attend private schools are far less likely to have all of their required vaccinations due to a parental opt-out option.

“Not even the recent re-emergence of whooping cough has halted the downward trajectory of vaccinations among these students,” the report found.

And the trend is pushing an ever-growing number of private schools past the biological tipping point.

To combat the trend, the legislature has passed AB 2109, which would require parents to consult with a healthcare practitioner before opting out of immunizations. It now sits on the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown, who will hopefully sign it into law by the month’s end.

The liberty of citizens to govern their own lives and their families in the manner they choose is a fundamental characteristic of the United States. Yet liberty has always—necessarily—had limits, even when dealing with child-rearing.

For example, modern society bans the sale of items such as tobacco and alcohol to children, regardless of their parents’ opinion on the matter. Children must be educated, whether it be through private, public or home school, or by law. Parents are limited in their legal right to corporally punish their children, and so on.

It is not a controversial idea that the best interest of a child outweighs the desires of of a parent, and parental liberty is clearly not without its limits.

The bill before the governor does not force parents to vaccinate their child, either, but seeks to ensure they have received the necessary information to make such an important decision concerning their child’s health.

Thirty states currently allow no such exemptions for personal beliefs and the already-thin arguments against vaccinating children grow weaker with each passing day.

The growing number of parents in these schools that are opting-out of childhood vaccinations are placing their own children, as well as all other unvaccinated kids, at an increasingly greater risk.

Public health officials advocate a minimum vaccination rate of 90 percent in any given population to maintain “community immunity,” sometimes referred to as, “herd immunity.”

“When a critical portion of a community is immunized against a contagious disease, most members of the community are protected against that disease because there is little opportunity for an outbreak,” a National Institute of Health publication states. “Even those who are not eligible for certain vaccines—such as infants, pregnant women, or immunocompromised individuals—get some protection because the spread of contagious disease is contained.”

About 15 percent of private schools surveyed by the AP failed to meet that “critical portion” of 90 percent. Comparatively, 5 percent of public schools didn’t meet the amount.

Alarmingly, the study also found the rate at which private school parents are opting out of childhood vaccinations increased 10 percent since last year, while the opt-out rate seen at public schools remained unchanged.

Keep in mind, the vaccinations being discussed include those that prevent against serious, potentially fatal illnesses such as measles, mumps, hepatitis B and whooping cough.

Some parents shun the shots due to religious beliefs. Others fear, without evidence, that the vaccinations themselves may cause illness. In recent years, a scientifically repudiated notion that vaccines are linked to autism has inexplicably gained popularity.

Some parents argue that getting childhood diseases strengthens children’s immune systems, while some others argue the converse: that the vaccinations themselves could overwhelm a young immune system.

Whatever the reason, the end result of the growing trend of sending children off to school without vaccinations is the same: More children are getting, and will continue to get, sick.

Sometimes very sick. Sometimes fatally sick.

The risk is real and growing. While we have not quite yet reached the point of deadly, widespread epidemics, the current trend seems to be leading in that direction.

Let us hope we never get there.

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6 commentsOn The vaccination villification

  • Among some parents, vaccine rejectionism is not about the child but rather how the parents see themselves. Second guessing your family doctor is empowering to these folks. It sets them apart from the herd. It says “I am a thinking person who refuses to go along.” This is how many consumer products are sold (think about 7-Up, the “un-cola”).

    Thanks for the intelligent, well-researched article, Brian.

  • Some parents shun the shots due to religious beliefs.

    Genuine religious objections are as rare as toilet-trained geese. Most states simply don’t want to expend the legal effort required to weed out the fraudulent overgrowth, New York being the exception. Instead, antivaccinationists, in their inimitable style of social conscientiousness, simply appropriate what should be a limited protection by tossing out incoherent pseudoreligious blab in states where there is no philosophical exemption. Dishonesty and a sense of entitlement are the sine quibus non of these people.

  • You should talk to someone from the other side as well, to get a truly unbiased piece. We parents are not feeling empowered by ‘second guessing’ a physician; we are simply expecting to continue to have rights that most other states enjoy without the hassle of taking a doctor’s time to receive a lecture we could teach ourselves, paying for an appt. co-pay, a form fee, and miss work. This does nothing for vaccinations — it doesn’t change our rights to not vaccinate, it is just one more way California seeks to curb parent rights that 48 other states enjoy without expense and/or hassle. (FYI, the whooping cough ‘epidemic?’ 90% of those who are ill got the vaccine.)


    The problem is that when many people contract an infectious disease they develop life long immunity and others in the population are protected by herd immunity.
    However, this does not necessarily apply in the case of vaccines. This is one reason why boosters are necessary. More experts are gradually concluding that vaccine induced herd immunity does not exist.

    For that reason it is not necessarily logical to get vaccinated for the common good. In fact, it is a problem that “shedding” occurs with many vaccines, where the vaccinated act as reservoirs of infection and infect the unvaccinated. This is officially approved information and is stated in the package inserts. The periods of shedding/secondary transmission may differ from one vaccine to another.

    It is important to “Investigate Before You Vaccinate!”

  • ‘Investigate’ before you vaccinate? Yes – please do. But that does not mean be satisfied with conspiracy driven anti vax web sites, potentially harming your babies by not vaccinating. I don’t think my doctor is part of an international conspiracy to harm children.

    Unfortunately already some tragic results from falling vaccination rates:

    From the US:

    and one from Australia:

  • Monica, a high majority of people in that whooping cough epidemic got the vaccine. How effective can it really be? The ingredients in vaccines are harmful; just like some people are allergic to penicillin or peanuts, some children’s bodies do not handle the vaccine ingredients, particularly the aluminum, formaldehyde, aborted fetal cells, etc. Those are potentially harmful to children, too. Vaccines are not one-size-fits-all and should never, ever be forced upon people.

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