Fewer Kindergartners Vaccinated in California, Measles Spread

| by Michael Allen

The number of California parents not vaccinating their kindergartners has doubled since 2007 (5 percent) to 11 percent in 2014.

Public health experts claim that the failure to vaccinate is the reason why measles have made a comeback in California after being eradicated.

California law says that kindergartners have to be vaccinated against "measles, whooping cough, polio, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, chicken pox, diphtheria and tetanus," notes The Los Angeles Times, but parents who object to immunizations based on their deeply-held, sincere, personal beliefs can get exemptions for their kids, which places those kids and other people's children in danger.

For decades, high vaccination numbers have prevented children from suffering diseases of the past, but the refusal of many parents to vaccinate is slowly moving California back to the Stone Age.

"Five days a week, [children are] in their small classroom," Shannon Stokley, an epidemiologist at the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told The Los Angeles Times. "That's the perfect condition for spreading germs and spreading infections."

The anti-vaccination movement is based on the false claim that vaccines somehow cause autism. Because autism is detected at an earlier ages, some parents point the finger at vaccinations, rather than any possible genetics passed down from their DNA. The anti-vaccine myth is perpetuated on the web, which is full of false claims and junk science.

"Most parents want to do the... healthiest thing for their child," Holly Blumhardt, a mother of three unvaccinated children, told The Los Angeles Times. "It should be their choice."

Dr. Eric Kodish, director of the Cleveland Clinic's Center for Ethics, Humanities and Spiritual Care, recently wrote in The Washington Post:

Some parents believe that vaccinating their children is a decision that only affects them and their families. Not true. Vaccinations are based on the premise of “herd immunity.” A certain percentage of the population must be immunized to fully protect against the disease.

Once that number falls below a certain level, people are at risk, especially children too young to be immunized, pregnant women and immuno-compromised individuals such as those being treated for cancer.  Parents who choose not to vaccinate their children also are putting other peoples’ children at risk along with their own younger children, whose immune systems may not be developed enough to fight off these infections.

The LA Times shared this infographic to better illustrate the concept:

"I'm 65. I was born right on the edge of the polio epidemic," Thomas Kaut, administrator at Montessori Children's House of Shady Oaks in Redding, Calif., told the Los Angeles Times. "I still feel like it's a no-brainer. Some of these parents don't understand the severity of these diseases."

Principal Kathy Rideout, of the Santa Cruz Montessori school, says that educating parents with a doctor and pamphlets of medical facts doesn't make much of a difference. In 2007, 7 percent of parents of kindergartners got exemptions from vaccinations, but last fall it was a whopping 22.6 percent.

Dr. Gil Chavez, deputy director of the California Department of Public Health's Center for Infectious Diseases, added, "We have schools in California where the percent of children who exercise the personal belief exemption is well above 50 percent. That's going to be a challenge for any disease that is vaccine preventable."

Sources: The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post (Image Credit: Jim Gathany, National Institutes of Health/LA Times)