At a recent gathering I stepped into a dispute about the efficacy of vaccinations for children. I haven’t been paying too close attention, but I guess there’s been a growing backlash against vaccinations. Anti-vaccine adherents have cited studies showing a causal tie between vaccines and autism (the data which was later shown to have been falsified), or are driven by a general distrust of Big Pharma. Some believe that vaccines may actually compromise our immune systems, by making them “more dependent on outside drugs” and less robust.
Well, here’s one. In a widely cited study of measles and pertussis vaccinations and outbreaks in Colorado, CDC researcher Daniel Feikin discovered that children who went unvaccinated were 22 times more likely to contract measles than vaccinated children. That’s perhaps to be expected.
The interesting kicker is that the unvaccinated children were actually vectors for measles outbreaks among children who had been vaccinated. Schools with pertussis outbreaks had three times as many exemptors. The chances of there being an outbreak in a county basically increased with the number of vaccine exemptors. Believing that they had the right to tend to their own bodies how they saw fit, anti-vaccination proponents put the larger community at risk.
As Dr. Feikin noted, “A single unvaccinated child in a community of vaccinated children holds a strategically opportunistic high ground, protected from risk of disease by herd immunity while avoiding risk of exceedingly rare adverse events associated with vaccination. Yet, when too many parents want their child to be that child, the entire community is affected.”
The final grace note? My wife is a doctor within Kaiser. Where do the greatest number of unvaccinated children in the Kaiser California system reside?
One of the most affluent community in California chooses not to vaccinate their children. They’ve never seen the effects of measles or polio. What risks can those diseases possibly pose? So they opt out, thinking it won’t affect the larger community.
A national study shows that unvaccinated children come from well-educated, upper income, predominantly white families. And in Colorado? It’s San Miguel County, home to the wealthy and largely liberal San Juan ski towns.
Take that cake and eat it.