In 2015, Oregon’s Health Authority (the state version of the CDC) published a table for school-required vaccinations that included detail about the “crude herd immunity threshold” that the published science showed was required for each vaccine in order for “the herd” (in this case, children in school) to be protected. Mumps and Rubella? 85%. Diphtheria? 85%. Polio? 50%. That’s not a typo, the threshold for polio is a 50% vaccination rate. What about Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B? They have no threshold, there’s just a little asterisk in the table next to each of them. And, why no threshold? Because the communicability for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B is so low there is no percentage required or known, a child is more than welcome to attend school with an active Hepatitis B infection. The singular disease with a threshold over 90%? Measles.
An Op-Ed yesterday in the L.A. Times compelled me to respond. Mostly, I ignore the L.A. Times. Today, the newspaper is owned by Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, a billionaire who made his money in the pharmaceutical industry. The separation of Pharma and media has never been less honored than at the L.A. Times, and their articles about “anti-vaxxers” consistently reveal an extreme bias. The newspaper happens to be based in one of three states that don’t allow schoolchildren vaccine exemptions to attend school, the other two being Mississippi and West Virginia (draw your own conclusions). There’s a new drumbeat in California, no doubt anticipating new legislation: California’s doctors aren’t responsible enough to be entrusted with writing medical exemptions for children, the state needs to take over this duty. The slippery slope of freedoms lost continues.
The only thing I know about Patrice Apodaca is that she used to be an LA Times staff writer. Her Op-Ed, titled, “Medical exemptions threatening herd immunity,” is a wonderful example of what happens when you combine extreme hysteria with wanton ignorance. Well-meaning parents turn on well-meaning parents. Ms. Apodaca is scared that the world is about to fall apart. She writes, “Even with that law now established [making vaccines mandatory in California], we see how fragile remains the effort to keep herd immunity intact.” Legislators pass useless laws. Children get sicker.
Ms. Apodaca tells us that California’s vaccination rates had dropped to a “dangerous” level of 90.4% in the 2014-15 school year, right before SB277 was passed to make vaccines mandatory in California. Of course, the number 90.4% by itself is meaningless. If we’re talking about Hepatitis B, Hepatitis A, Polio, Diphtheria, Mumps, or Rubella, that vaccination rate is more than adequate to keep those infectious diseases at bay, at least according to the Oregon Health Authority, who got their information from our national health authority, the CDC.
Most parents are shocked to learn that as late as 1986 we only had three licensed vaccines in the United States: MMR, Polio, and DTP. What were the vaccination rates for those three vaccines that year (1986)? 61%, 53%, and 63%, respectively. Just let that sink in for a moment. Were children dying in the streets in 1986? Did we “return to the dark ages” as many vaccine marketers tell us we will if parents exempt their children from any vaccines? I think you know the answer. Today, we have eleven licensed vaccines given 36 times to children before their fifth birthday. Many vaccines required for school aren’t even given to children in other first world countries—the U.K doesn’t give chicken pox, Denmark doesn’t give Hepatitis B, most don’t give the flu vaccine, the list is very long—but why let the facts confuse?
The measles outbreak at Disneyland served as the hysterical catalyst California needed to enact a law that also makes low-communicable diseases like Hepatitis B mandatory for California’s children to attend school. Lost in all the hype, unfortunately, was a sobering study published after the fact that showed that nearly 40% of the Disneyland cases—yes, I said nearly 40%—were caused by the MMR vaccine itself. Uh, oh, is this just more internet fear-mongering? You tell me. The study, “Rapid Identification of Measles Virus Vaccine Genotype by Real-Time PCR,” was published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, and the conclusion was very clear:
“During the measles outbreak in California in 2015, a large number of suspected cases occurred in recent vaccinees. Of the 194 measles virus sequences obtained in the United States in 2015, 73 were identified as vaccine sequences..."
Worse for Ms. Apodaca, the Disneyland measles outbreak didn’t start in a California school and wasn’t spread by California’s school children. The first case of measles was in an adult, which is where the entire logic chain of Ms. Apocada and every other person screaming “herd immunity” from the rooftops falls apart completely. You see, whenever these hysterical articles come out, they never mention that the entire theory of “community immunity” is destroyed by one simple and obvious fact: adults make up a significant portion of any school community. Not just teachers, administrators, janitors, and cafeteria workers, but also parent volunteers, coaches, and delivery persons. What’s the vaccination status of each of those adults? We have no idea. How about all the adults a child sees at the Mall of grocery store after school? We don’t know. All we know as fact, from the CDC, are these two things: 1) Adult vaccination rates in the United States are extremely low, well under 50%, and 2) the protection from a vaccine wears off with time, typically in 10 years or less. My last vaccine? 1991. I’m effectively a fully unvaccinated adult. And I pick up my kids from school every day and volunteer often.
The inconvenient truth that adult vaccination rates are unknown was perfectly dismantled in an Op-Ed for the Congressional newspaper The Hill back in 2016 appropriately titled, “If only half of America is properly vaccinated, where are the epidemics?” Ms. Apocada would be well-served to read the words of the author, attorney Gretchen DuBeau, who wrote:
“Vaccines may have a place in our medical arsenal, but they are not the silver bullet they’re portrayed to be. Year after year the pharmaceutical industry, looking for lucrative new profit centers, churns out new vaccines. They use pseudo-science to convince the public that these products are safe and effective, and they use public shaming to convince the citizenry that non-compliance is a public health threat.”
No cockroaches here, Ms. Apodaca, just cold, hard facts. There is no public health threat, and never has been, at least since 1986.
About the author: J.B. Handley is the best-selling author of How to End the Autism Epidemic.