California's pertussis epidemic has escalated, state health officials said Friday, with 4,558 cases reported this year as of Tuesday — 1,100 of those in the last two weeks.
"We are off to a really bad start in 2014," Dr. Gil Chavez, state epidemiologist with the California Department of Public Health, said during a phone call with reporters Friday.Cal Berkeley's California Magazine interviews Arthur Reingold, chief epidemiologist for the UC Berkeley School of Public Health:
Reingold is measured, even mild, when addressing anti-vaxxers. His restraint could be considered remarkable, considering that about five years ago, he was menaced by a disturbed student who was apparently set off by Reingold’s contention that vaccines should not be linked to autism. The man, who Reingold says had a history of of “crazy episodes,” showed up his office one day with a hammer and smashed everything in the place. (Fortunately, the epidemiologist was in Geneva at that time, and Reingold said he decided not to press charges after the student signed a legal document vowing to stay away from him.)
The vast majority of vaccine resisters, of course, are well-intended and believe that they are acting in the best interests of their own children. Many emphasize that vaccines can trigger serious side effects, others accuse the government of being in cahoots with the pharmaceutical industry, and still others claim, without any credible scientific support, that vaccines cause the disease they are intended to protect against. “I am not wrong!” Sunshine wrote. “I’ve done my children a high service by not following the sheep and you know what, many parents are not following the sheep, or in this case I should say wolves….The growing polarization regarding vaccines is unmistakable.”
The result? Research has concluded that the few states (including California) that make it easy for parents to opt out of vaccinating their children experience a far higher incidence of pertussis, and that clusters of non-medical vaccine exemptions may have contributed to an outbreak of pertussis in California in 2010.