By Nancy Shute, NPR
California has a new law that’s supposed to get more of the state’s children vaccinated against measles, whooping cough and other infectious diseases.
But the law has taken a strange turn on its way to being put into action, one that may instead make it easier for parents to exempt their children from required vaccinations.
In recent years the number of parents who request so-called personal belief exemptions from vaccines has been rising. It’s gotten to the point that public health officials fear that there could be disease outbreaks in parts of California. Same goes for other states where exemption rates are high.
On Sept. 20, 2012, California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed a bill aimed at boosting childhood immunization rates. His signing letter included these instructions: Continue reading
Student leaves a vaccine clinic at a Los Angeles middle school after being immunized against whooping cough. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
By Nancy Shute, NPR
When the whooping cough vaccine was invented in the 1940s, doctors thought they had finally licked the illness, which is especially dangerous for babies. But then it came roaring back.
In 2010, a whooping cough outbreak in California sickened 9,120 people, more than in any year since 1947. Ten infants died; babies are too young to be vaccinated.
Public health officials suspected that the increased numbers of parents who refused to vaccinate their children played a role, but they couldn’t be sure.
Vaccine refusal was indeed a factor, researchers now say. They compared the location and number of whooping cough, or pertussis, cases in that outbreak with the personal belief exemptions filed by parents who chose not to vaccinate for reasons other than a child’s health. (Some children with compromised immune systems aren’t able to be vaccinated.)
Pertussis is very contagious, spreading quickly through a community. So the researchers had to map not only the location of outbreak clusters, but also when they appeared. Continue reading