In top California schools from Malibu to Beverly Hills, in the neighborhoods of many wealthy and highly-educated families, parents are increasingly opting out of standard vaccination schedules. Illnesses like pertussis (whooping cough) could break out in Los Angeles like a wildfire, says Gary Baum of The Hollywood Reporter.
Almost 8,000 cases of pertussis have been reported in 2014, and as of September 2, 267 of these cases have resulted in the patient being hospitalized. Fifty-eight of those patients were admitted to intensive care.
Adults can contract whooping cough, but 94% of reported patients with the illness are children. The youngest children are most at risk. In 2014, so far three infants under two months have succumbed to pertussis.
In all, there have been 72 cases of whooping cough at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, which causes those who have contracted it to cough so violently that ribs are often cracked, vomiting occurs, and intubating the patient may be necessary. In 1950, 1,100 died because of the disease, but thanks to years of vaccinations, the disease has almost vanished. One case of pertussis, however, can cause a dozen additional cases because it is so contagious.
No other county in California has had as many cases of pertussis as Los Angeles County — 1,317 so far this year.
"It's a smoldering fire that has started and it could be a complete wildfire if vaccination rates continue to fall," says Dr. Deborah Lehman, associate director of pediatric infectious diseases at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
As if pertussis were not enough, measles cases are the highest they have been in 20 years, as well. About one-half of the cases in California have involved patients who have not been vaccinated. The vaccination for measles is a combination – measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine(MMR-II).
Many of the kids who have not gotten their DTaP (diptheria, tetanus, and pertussis) immunizations, or their MMR-II, are kids from the wealthy west side. The reason they are not getting their shots is that some parents fear antigens (foreign toxins introduced to evoke an immune response) or other hurtful ingredients in the shots.
These ideas became popular because of a study published by British physician Andrew Wakefield, which has since been discredited. His theory was that the vaccinations caused autism in children who received them. These parents support their non-compliance by submitting a form known as personal belief exemption (PBE) in place of the document indicating a completed shot schedule.
Dr. Bob Sears, an anti-vaccination physician in Southern California known as "Dr. Bob", has sold 250,000 copies of The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child. He advises those parents who are wary of vaccinations to forgo them or follow an alternative schedule which can, in his opinion, lessen the possibility of vaccine-related problems.
Tom Boggioni, reporting for Raw Story, shares the opinion of Dr. Carrie Byington, chairwoman of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention committee on infectious diseases.
"The approved schedule in the United States is the schedule that has been shown to be safe and effective," Byington said. "The Institute of Medicine, as well as many, many studies, have confirmed this again and again."
The Los Angeles Times editorial board points out that if it were just a question of a child not being vaccinated because of the parents' fears, and the possibility that he or she might get ill from the vaccination, that would be called personal choice. But immunity requires the cooperation of the larger community. The "herd immunity" concept is what matters.
"â¦the immunity of a crucial percentage of people will drastically reduce the chances that a susceptible, non-immune person will be exposed to the disease."
Herd immunity benefits can plummet if more than 8% of children are not vaccinated. Dr. Bob is telling parents that because most children are being vaccinated, their child is probably safe. This, say the editors, could be very dangerous medical advice.