One of the worst forms of ethical negligence in the United States is the trend of parents forgoing vaccinations for their children. The irresponsible, selfish act needlessly threatens the health and even lives of other children too young to be immunized, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.
A new study published July 1 by the journal Pediatrics destroys the Internet-fueled myth that vaccinations put children at a higher risk of autism and diabetes. Those perpetuating this nonsense, including actress Jenny McCarthy, threaten to bring back deadly diseases that doctors and scientists successfully have suppressed for decades.
Yet California vaccination rates continue to fall at an alarming rate.
The Legislature tried to address this in 2012 with a law written by Assemblyman Richard Pan, a Sacramento pediatrician. It required that parents who want to skip vaccinations first talk to a health care professional about the risks and benefits. Just talk about it.
The law went into effect this year, but it's all but useless. Gov. Jerry Brown weakened it by insisting that it include a "religious exemption" allowing parents to easily skirt the requirement.
The Legislature should revisit the issue and require all parents seeking an exemption to have an appointment with a medical professional about the risks and benefits. It's a serious public health issue.
The latest study was conducted by experts at UCLA, Boston Children's Hospital and Rand Corp. They reviewed more than 60 scientific medical studies of vaccine safety and concluded that problems are "extremely rare" and that "the benefits of childhood immunizations far outweigh the risks."
The Centers for Disease Control concurs, calling vaccines one of greatest public health developments of the last century. Medical experts estimate that vaccines prevent more than 40,000 premature childhood deaths and 20 million illnesses every year.
Whooping cough used to kill 5,000 people in the United States every year. That number had been reduced to fewer than 50, but the disease is again on the rise.
Scientists believe that a 90 percent immunization rate is the minimum necessary to prevent an outbreak of a disease. Contra Costa County's immunization rate was even better at 93.96 percent. This bucks the trend in California, where the number of parents seeking personal exemptions rose by an alarming 25 percent over the past two years.
Other Bay Area rates were not good, including Santa Cruz County (84.38 percent), Alameda County (88.94 percent), San Francisco County (88.11 percent), San Mateo County (90.18) and Marin County (84.90 percent).
As a consequence, the number of measles and whooping cough cases has risen to levels not seen for decades. California must require parental education to reverse the trend that threatens decades of progress against deadly contagious diseases. It's a trend fed not by religion but by ignorance.