Are high vaccine rejection rates in California a result of social pressure?

These results suggests to me that neighbors talk to neighbors, birds of a feather flock together, or that people don’t want to be ostracized and fall in line with even nonsense beliefs that are ultimately harmful.

New Kaiser Permanente study shows Marin ‘not alone’ in vaccination refusal pattern.

A new Kaiser Permanente study shows that Marin County has plenty of company when it comes to parents choosing not to vaccinate their children.

The study, published in the current edition of the journal Pediatrics, found several clusters of underimmunization and vaccine refusal among Kaiser Permanente members in Northern California.

Personal belief exemption rates statewide had remained fairly stable at about half of 1 percent for many years until the late 1990s, when a now-discredited report linked childhood immunization to autism. Statewide, the percentage of kindergartners claiming the personal belief exemption grew from 1.56 percent in 2007-08 to 3.15 percent in 2013-14.

In Marin, however, the number shot up much higher — from 4.2 percent in 2005 to 7.83 percent in 2012-13. Marin’s personal belief exemption rate dropped back to 6.45 percent in 2014-15. Still, the percentage of kindergartners claiming a personal belief exemption in Marin is much higher than in most other California counties with similar demographics.

The study determined that neither race/ethnicity nor neighborhood income were dominant drivers of clustering, “although individual-level underimmunization was higher in neighborhoods with more families in poverty, as well as those with more graduate degrees.”

The now-discredited study mentioned in the article is, of course, the infamous study by Andrew Wakefield, which also caused him to lose his medical license years later. His legacy continues. See what harm bullshit information can do?

Note that the clusters are among the richest and the poorest – a bimodal distribution that suggests two different causes. It’s not hard to imagine that low income families who lack easy access to health care are deficient in vaccines. Yet, the refusal rate is high in highly EDUCATED families. Vaccine refusal was high in Marin and southwest Sonoma counties, northeastern San Francisco, the East Bay extending from El Cerrito to Alameda, northeastern Sacramento County including Roseville, and a small area south of Sacramento. Rates in these were from 5.5 percent to 13.5 percent! I get the impression that these parents eschew science and listen to BS from their friends and relatives that vaccines are bad. This is an extremely unreliable source of information but one that is incredibly persuasive. Keeping up with the Jones may mean also not getting your kids vaccinated because of the current trendy talk about it. Well, that “talk” is wrong and it is hurting children.

  9 comments for “Are high vaccine rejection rates in California a result of social pressure?

  1. Pat Murtagh
    January 20, 2015 at 8:33 PM

    One thing about the story struck me. It says that income level has no effect on vaccination rates. I’ve recently read another story, also from California, that seemed to say that the vaccine refusal rate was higher in wealthier neighbourhoods. I wonder about the difference. I’ll see if I can dig up the reference.

  2. Omxqru
    January 20, 2015 at 9:11 PM

    Perhaps natural selection will come in and correct this, uh, ignorance.

  3. Pat Murtagh
    January 20, 2015 at 10:39 PM

    I found the reference I was searching for. It comes from a September 2, 2014 article in the Los Angeles Times. Yes, it does mention that wealthier areas in southern California have lower vaccination rates. The nice thing though is that the article has a statewide map of vaccination compliance. See (I hope this is right) .

  4. Lagaya1
    January 20, 2015 at 10:40 PM

    This has no relation to natural selection. I’m sure that was meant as a joke, but let’s not muddy the issue with it anyway on a scientific site.

  5. Adam
    January 21, 2015 at 6:20 AM

    Stupidity is contagious. Is there an effective preventative to block it before it forms pathways and spreads?

  6. Karin
    January 21, 2015 at 10:03 AM

    What you said.
    And it’s always a little irritating to see comments bringing up “natural selection” on stories about people killing themselves or their children with their stupidity. It reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of evolution, and is also pretty assholish, if you’ll forgive the language.

  7. MisterNeutron
    January 21, 2015 at 4:13 PM

    I’d like to see health care providers like Kaiser Permanente adopt a simple policy: if you refuse to vaccinate your children, you are no longer welcome to bring them into any of our facilities, since they present a danger to our other patients. The public schools have a tougher time doing this, but a private organization should have no problem taking this stance.

  8. Christine Rose
    January 21, 2015 at 5:18 PM

    There’s an unfortunate but common belief in the African-American community that health care workers are deliberately tainting injections with some sort of poison aimed at harming persons of certain races. I’ve heard it many times and in recent years it’s always tied to a vague idea that vaccines are dangerous. The people repeating this (at least to me) are educated professional people as well. I am not sure whether this translates to Marin county but I can see someone avoiding a vaccine so that they don’t have to argue about the Tuskegee experiments and other atrocities.

  9. Harrow
    January 21, 2015 at 10:31 PM

    “…individual-level underimmunization was higher in neighborhoods with more families in poverty, as well as those with more graduate degrees.”

    …Business and Poly-sci PhDs, and their gardeners and nannies.

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