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I decided to write this up after reading about another unfortunate epidemic, this time affecting children in southern California:

LOS ANGELES -- State health officials have declared whooping cough an epidemic in California and say it is on pace to break a 50-year record for infections and deaths for the year.

As of June 15, California had 910 recorded cases of the highly contagious disease -- also known as pertussis. Five babies, all under three months of age, have died from the disease this year.

Blaise Congeni, MD, of Akron Children's Hospital in Ohio, said he wasn't surprised, as higher-than-usual numbers of pertussis cases have been reported across the country.

"We are having an outbreak in Ohio," though not as severe as in California, he said in a phone interview.

"Both Congeni and August noted that pertussis tends to wax and wane in cycles. But gaps in vaccination coverage may also be playing a role, particularly in California.

California is the epicenter of vaccine refusal" in the U.S., said Congeni.

This isn't a meta diary in response to any particular event, comment, or person.  It's something I've been meaning to write but have never actually put the effort into it.  Reading this news article today seems to have finally pushed me to do it.  And I'm going to admit now, this diary borrows heavily from other sources and is mostly ranting on my part.  I would like to make a diary presenting the studies, players, science, and statistics in a easy to read fashion but I've gone for the easier route this time.  Maybe I'll save that diary for a followup at a later date.  So forgive me for presenting a pro-science diary that is admittedly light on the science.

August explained that California requires that children receive the full slate of vaccinations for pertussis, measles, and other infectious diseases before they can attend school. But the requirement is waived if parents file a "personal belief exemption" (PBE), which need not be based on religion or medical necessity.

Read the full article here

A personal belief exemption!  In other words, if a parent simply feels strongly against vaccinating their child they have a legal right to not have that child vaccinated.  It doesn't matter whether that belief is based on good evidence, bad evidence, or no evidence at all!  That puts the child and other children in the community in danger.  Why other children?  Because that unvaccinated child becomes a potential vector for the further spread of disease.  Many of the deaths that have already occured in California are in children so young that they have not yet had time to get vaccinated.  That means they are being put at risk by others who have filed PBEs on behalf of their children and are allowing their children to become reservoirs for the continued spread of infection.  In most states, if a parent continously puts their child in danger in other ways the state can step in and ensure that child's basic safetly needs are met.  But when it comes to vaccinations, there is no safety net.  Normally I would argue that if an adult chose to reject all the scientific evidence then they are free to suffer the consequences of their denial.  But these PBEs are putting innocent children at risk throughout the community.  DTaP vaccinations (and others) should be as mandatory as feeding and clothing your child.  No exceptions.  And it's the state's responsibility to make sure vaccinations are available to ALL families.

Below is an excerpt from a recent clinical study on the effects of vaccine refusal on a local population:

Parental refusal of pertussis vaccination is associated with an increased risk of pertussis infection in children.

Glanz JM, McClure DL, Magid DJ, Daley MF, France EK, Salmon DA, Hambidge SJ.

Kaiser Permanente Colorado, Institute for Health Research, PO Box 378066, Denver, CO 80237-8066, USA.

Pediatrics. 2009 Jun;123(6):1446-51.

The objective of this study was to determine if children who contracted pertussis infection were more likely to have parents who refused pertussis vaccinations than a similar group of children who did not develop pertussis infection.

snip

We identified 156 laboratory-confirmed pertussis cases and 595 matched controls. There were 18 (12%) pertussis vaccine refusers among the cases and 3 (0.5%) pertussis vaccine refusers among the controls. Children of parents who refused pertussis immunizations were at an increased risk for pertussis compared with children of parents who accepted vaccinations. In a secondary case-control analysis of children continuously enrolled in Kaiser Permanente of Colorado from 2 to 20 months of age, vaccine refusal was associated with a similarly increased risk of pertussis. In the entire Kaiser Permanente of Colorado pediatric population, 11% of all pertussis cases were attributed to parental vaccine refusal.

Emphasis mine

Full abstract and link to article here

PubMed ID number: 19482753

Folks, this is hard evidence of the effects of vaccine refusal.  It is the very opposite of "Personal Belief" which need not be based on any evidence whatsoever.

So is this and it's sometimes the result of denial of another common childhood vaccine, MMR.

Vaccine denial by people who don't understand the science or the statistics is no different than climate change deniers.  Everyone has an opinion nowadays and during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic I saw no shortage of the same ignorance being posted in diaries here on Daily Kos.  Sure we can easily put a lot of blame on the people who have a live studio audience and it's easy enough to lay the majority of blame on the "opinio-tainment" of Faux News windbags like this:

Q: Would you give it to your kids?

Holtorf: "I definitely would not"

But we have to be careful because sometimes it comes from people who we think of as intelligent and liberal.  But every non-scientist who spreads this misinformation is contributing to the problem.  Just as racist talk and images help perpetuate racism in the world, so does anti-vaccine and anti-science talk help perpetuate the problems cited at the very top of this diary.

Tell me something Bill, what would this guy think about your vaccine and germ "theories"?

Because he sounds like he's got it right:

"When it comes to science, non-scientists don't get to vote"

I want to end this with a call for people to stop spreading vaccine fear whether you have an HBO special that you host, or you simply like to comment on political or science blogs.  The evidence for the safety of vaccines and their components is overwhelming.  There is no contention.  As the second Bill Maher put it, "on one side you've got every scientist in the world, on the other side Mr. Potatohead".  No matter how clever you think you are, I can assure you the CDC, WHO, NIH, FDA, and thousands of other scientists have not somehow miraculously missed that one little point you like to throw out there that you heard somewhere.  

I like to think I'm pretty knowledgeable about certain subjects.  But that doesn't make me in any way knowledgeable about oil spills, booming, and drilling setups.  I can read all the articles and blogs I want but that doesn't put me within 10,000 miles of what Fishgrease has demonstrated he knows.  

It won't be long and all the Mr. Potatoheads will start chattering about the next flu season.  I'll tell you right now what is going to happen: the scientists and public health professionals will urge caution and careful preparation for the next wave of H1N1.  They will tell you that, while we can't predict IF H1N1 will resurge or how bad it will be, that people should not dismiss vaccination advice.  Based on some of the researchers I've talked with, there are past trends whereby dramatic shifts in influenza subtypes have begun mild and come back with more serious second and third waves before leveling off to a typical seasonal distribution and severity.  I'm actually quite curious to see if this information gets released to the public through official channels.  While it's just a theory, the historical evidence presented in support of it raised quite a few eyebrows in the conference room.  The public backlash that would likely occur should the warnings prove overblown may be enough to make them second-guess releasing it.  Like I said, I'll be curious.  I strongly advise you to tune out the Mr. Potatoheads and listen to the people whose job it is to research these things.

Originally posted to pullbackthecurtain on Thu Jun 24, 2010 at 05:09 PM PDT.

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