Whooping cough—which killed just six Americans in 1995—is back big-time, especially on the Westside of Los Angeles, thanks to stupid and stubborn rich people who refuse to vaccinate on the schedule recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. (LA has the most whooping cough cases of any California county this year: 1,317.) The Hollywood Reporter has waded into the apparently-conscience-free world of the Westside anti-vaxxers and found a legion of selfish parents enabled by fancy doctors and often expensive schools, which obviously have to balance potential lost tuition from angry parents with potential lost tuition from kids who die of measles.
When parents want to enroll their students in school without proper vaccinations, they have to file a personal belief exemption form and THR also crunched the numbers on those, revealing that "wealthy Westside kids — particularly those attending exclusive, entertainment-industry-favored child care centers, preschools and kindergartens — are far more likely" to be un-vaxxed and the rates could soon reach a public health tipping-point.
Here's how bad it is: "The region stretching from Malibu south to Marina del Rey and inland as far as La Cienega Boulevard (and including Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, Brentwood, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills) averaged a 9.1 percent PBE level among preschoolers for the 2013-14 school year — a 26 percent jump from two years earlier." LA County as a whole had just a 2.2 percent level during the same period. Many individual schools have much higher numbers—as high as 88 percent—that put them about on par with "developing countries like Chad and South Sudan."
There is no proven link between vaccination and any serious medical problem (the whole autism thing was debunked years ago), but some parents—found in several analyses to be the rich and well-educated ones—think they know better and, furthermore, that keeping their children from possibly developing eczema or whatever is more important than maintaining hard-earned herd immunity in their communities (when a certain percentage of the population is vaccinated, everyone is protected; so far there have been few enough un-vaxxed children that they can piggyback on that herd immunity).
The health effect on Los Angeles is real: one pediatrician says "We have seen a huge pertussis outbreak in Malibu and the Palisades area." But Westside parents do not care about all those other sick kids; as "the most influential pediatrician among Westside vaccine decliners" says: "[Herd immunity] enters every single discussion I have with parents … But it isn't the predominant topic because they don't come in with a 2-month-old baby and go, 'What's the best thing for Los Angeles?' "
Meanwhile, another doctor who's designed his own popular schedule for anti-vax parents suggests "skipping hepatitis B and polio shots," so break out the old iron lungs, LA, and cough one up for the Westside.
· Hollywood's Vaccine Wars: L.A.'s "Entitled" Westsiders Behind City's Epidemic [THR]