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?