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Sunday, May 15, 2011

California Vaccine Mandate

At The Sacramento Bee, Bruce Maiman looks at California's vaccine mandate:

It's cross-purposes chaos. Every year, school districts find themselves contending with some new regulation passed by lawmakers who impose education cuts that result in reduced staffs.

Additionally, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger cut $18 million from immunization programs last fall. So, we've got lawmakers passing health laws while the governor strips millions from agencies charged with executing them?

Even better: To follow up, the state will audit each district to make sure all students are vaccinated. So they're spending money telling us to do something, then taking away the money to do it, then spending more money to see that we did it.


Last year, more than 12,000 of California's roughly 470,000 kindergartners filed exemption forms for vaccinations – up slightly from the year before.

For some parents, it's a religious conviction, but many parents use the exemptions because they see this law as the government telling them how to raise their kids, or they believe vaccines cause autism.

Rubbish. The study popularizing the autism theory was done by now-discredited British doctor Andrew Wakefield. The British Medical Journal found he'd deliberately falsified data on every patient whose cases formed the basis of his 1998 study. And, it turns out, Wakefield was paid more than $675,000 by a lawyer hoping to sue vaccine makers.

Former MTV star Jenny McCarthy peddled that Wakefield study for years while preaching against vaccinations. More rubbish. Though she wrote a book claiming to have cured her son's autism – which she said was caused by a vaccination – she admitted to Time magazine last year that her son never had autism and was eventually diagnosed with a different disorder.

Maiman errs in describing the Time article. Other sources -- not McCarthy herself -- suggested the possibility of misdiagnosis:

There are dark murmurings from scientists and doctors asking, Was her son ever really autistic? Evan's symptoms — heavy seizures, followed by marked improvement once the seizures were brought under control — are similar to those of Landau-Kleffner syndrome, a rare childhood neurological disorder that can also result in speech impairment and possible long-term neurological damage.

The Los Angeles Times reports some background on the California mandate:

As the summer vacation season nears, measles cases are on the rise in California, driven by unimmunized travelers infected elsewhere who are entering the state, health officials said Friday.

"We see that as worrisome," Dr. Gilberto Chavez, deputy director of the California Department of Public Health, said in an interview.

Those infected with measles include not only unimmunized Californians traveling abroad, but foreign visitors to the state and others who simply came in contact with infected travelers, Chavez said.

Measles is considered eliminated in the Western Hemisphere, with very few cases of illness, but it is a significant problem in Europe, Asia and Africa.


In other medical news, the disease whooping cough, also known as pertussis, still remains a problem in California. Although levels have fallen from the height of the epidemic last year, the disease still remains at higher rates than normal, health officials said. Between January and mid-April, 733 people were infected with the disease. Last year, there were 9,273 cases, and 10 infants died.