| With whooping cough now at epidemic levels, it's becoming clear that one of the primary culprits is the idiotic trend over the last 10 years of parents, mostly affluent whites, opting out of vaccination out of a baseless fear that the vaccines are unsafe.
At least, that's one of the possible conclusions a California Watch study reached:
Seven of the 12 California counties with the highest whooping cough rates also have above average rates of kindergarten students showing up to school with "personal-belief" vaccine waivers, a California Watch review of state data shows.
The state's emerging whooping cough epidemic took center stage yesterday when a state public health official called on those caring for infants to get vaccines and to immunize children....
Last month, I reported on the high rate of cases in Marin County, where the county's health officer pointed to personal-belief vaccine exemptions as a possible culprit....
The picture is less clear, though, in Fresno and Madera counties. They take fourth and fifth places in terms of whooping cough-infection rates. Yet both have a low rate of personal-belief exempted kids, at about 1 percent.
I think the answer here is actually pretty obvious. The stats from Marin and Fresno/Madera aren't contradictory at all. They're just telling us different things.
The evidence does clearly seem to indicate that parental refusal to protect their children and the community as a whole by stupidly not vaccinating their kids is fueling the epidemic. But what the California Watch article doesn't mention is that this is compounded by another problem: the lack of access to affordable health care services in the Central Valley, especially among poorer residents.
While this hypothesis would need to be tested, one could pretty easily conclude that affluent parents on the coasts created an epidemic that has spread to hit hard those families who can't afford to give their kids the kind of medical treatment they need.
This epidemic is already leading to another round of bashing these privileged parents who have followed junk science in refusing to vaccinate their children, weakening social immunity to whooping cough and other diseases. And such bashing is most definitely warranted.
But neither is it enough. The underlying problem here is that decades of right-wing attacks on government - especially on regulatory bodies and on public health services - has created conditions where this epidemic can grow and spread.
Here's what I mean. One reason why the junk science about vaccinations spread is that Republican attacks on government regulatory bodies, from underfunding them to staffing them with industry-friendly hacks who look the other way when problems arise, made it possible for affluent parents to believe there could be a problem with vaccines. If you don't trust government to keep food and drugs safe because you think government has been captured by industry (which it certainly has been), then it becomes possible to believe that vaccines cause autism.
That problem is bad enough. It is compounded by the consistent underfunding, including cuts, made to public health services that less prosperous Californians need for themselves and for their children.
A stronger, more robust government that provides better regulatory oversight and better public health services is necessary for vaccinations to work. Otherwise you'll see these kinds of epidemics continue to spread, even though they are preventable.