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About That Whooping Cough Epidemic

by: Robert Cruickshank

Tue Jul 20, 2010 at 10:00:00 AM PDT


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.

Robert Cruickshank :: About That Whooping Cough Epidemic
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cynicism, not blather (0.00 / 0)
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.

It logically follows that if industry has captured the drug regulation, how do we know they haven't also captured the investigatory apparatus that declares drugs safe and effective?

Vaccine skepticism amongst educated affluent parents, such as those in Marin, is a result of informed cynicism, not right wing blather.

Scorn and derision aren't going to change their minds. Honest scientific investigation will.


informed? (0.00 / 0)
i'd call believing in whatever crackpot antiflouridation/antivaccine crackpot theories get thrown around recklessly credulous, even when it's rich educated white folks falling for them.

it's one thing to be skeptical about corporate capture of regulatory agencies. it's another thing entirely to then pivot off that skepticism and believe any damn thing that gets passed along the grapevine, as long as the people telling it to you are in your socioeconomic class.


[ Parent ]
man, you really brought all the pieces together here robert (0.00 / 0)
well done. there's a whole lot of blame to go around, and a whole lot that desperately needs changing if we're to avoid similar sorts of waves of infectious disease in the near future, esp. as the economy puts more and more californian families in the position of having to defer medical care until it's ER time.

You mean... (0.00 / 0)
...Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey don't know more about medicine than the medical community?  Wow, who woulda thunk?

It would be interesting to find out the political philosophy of those who opted out of the vaccines.  I would doubt that they are predominantly conservative, since we're talking about Marin County.  I doubt that the years of "Republican attacks on government regulatory bodies" (mis)informed these decisions.

I don't know what motivated people to opt out of the vaccines, but I do know a couple that is very nervous about vaccinating their kid because of all the crappy books that are out there alleging corporate greed behind the vaccination regime.  I doubt a conservative makes that argument, but I dare say it is more likely that a liberal would.  Junk science comes from both parties, unfortunately.


I can understand it (0.00 / 0)
I think it's extraordinarily stupid, but I can understand it. Government has lied to us about safety matters before, and has covered up for companies when they put unsafe things out on the market before. Liberals and progressives make this point all the time.

The problem came when there was a lot of independent scientific evidence that the vaccines actually were safe, and that it wasn't the primary factor in causing autism. These prosperous parents ignored that stuff and figured they wouldn't take the risk, probably reasoning that if their kids did get sick, they'd be able to afford treatment.

You can check out any time you like but you can never leave


[ Parent ]
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