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Vaccine debate: The conspiracy theorists vs. reality

August 12, 2013|By Alexandra Le Tellier
  • Gregorio Auila holds the hand of his son, Emmanuel, as he receives an immunization from a nurse at the To Help Everyone clinic in Los Angeles.
Gregorio Auila holds the hand of his son, Emmanuel, as he receives an immunization… (Los Angeles Times )

Fewer parents are vaccinating their children, but still sending them off to school, warns physician and professor Nina Shapiro in our Opinion pages. In it, she argues for "unvaccinated-free zones" to protect all children from disease.

“The law in California mandates that students in public and private schools be immunized, but it also allows easy-to-get exemptions for personal beliefs,” Shapiro writes. She continues:

Although some 90% of the state's kindergartners are up to date on their immunizations, it is not uncommon for individual public elementary schools to report that more than one-third of their kindergartners are not.

And if you're thinking this must be a problem unique to schools in low-income neighborhoods, think again. One of Malibu's three elementary schools reported that just 58% of its kindergartners were up to date on their vaccinations, and some other affluent areas throughout the state have schools with similar compliance rates.

Parents who choose not to vaccinate their child are often concerned that it will raise the risk of autism – even though “study after study has debunked this myth.”  Other parents are simply not concerned about protecting their kids against diseases of yesteryear. “But here's the reality,” says Shapiro. “These diseases do exist, and we're already seeing some of them make a comeback.” (If you’re concerned for your child, here’s where you can check school vaccination rates.)

On our comments boards, passionate readers have weighed in on both sides of the vaccination debate.

The gist of the conversation goes like this:

Archies_Boy: “Being against vaccinations is right up there with believing the earth is flat and fear of black cats.”

thevaccinemachine: “[…] Rather than attack exemptions, we should abolish them altogether and let parents, not self-serving bureaucrats and vaccine shills, decide what is right for their children.”

TexasTruBlu: Too many empty headed parents ignore the stark reality that their children are causing a return of childhood diseases that had been previously stamped out. […] This is about more than your feelings, it is about the public health of all of us. Stop being so darned selfish and putting lives at risk.”

mg6ninety: “Dr. Fred Klenner cured every single case of polio with simple large dose of IV of sodium ascorbate, Vitamin C. He was shunned by the medical industry. Large amounts of Vitamin C can kill any virus and childhood disease. PharmaMafia has won the war and trillions of dollars.”

Slposton: “Suspicion of science in general is up. So is ignorance, illiteracy, superstition and conspiracy theories. Tends to be what happens when a nation doesn't emphasize a strong education and two parent households (gay or otherwise).  Just another area where our country is broken.”

But isn’t it time we put the notion that vaccines should be up for debate? As Nina Shapiro argues in her op-ed, vaccinating children is a matter of public health. It shouldn’t be optional, as the people of Malibu seem to think.

In the July 19 episode of “On the Media,” co-host Bob Garfield put it like this. Reacting to news that ABC had given anti-vaccine “quacktivist” Jenny McCarthy a platform to spread her message by hiring her to cohost “The View,” Garfield said:

[I]n the press release announcing the hire, ABC revealed something chilling. McCarthy, the network said, will stir things up with her parenting beliefs. Uh-oh! Jenny McCarthy's most notorious parenting belief is the extremely inflammatory allegation that vaccinating children is dangerous, based on some long discredited pseudoscience linking the preservatives in childhood vaccines to autism.

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