October 1, 2014 1:19 pm :: Celebrities are often the trendsetters around the country and LA, as health and spiritual movements like yoga, Kabbalah and diet fads get widespread media attention due to their famous adherents.
But there is one celebrity-led health trend that has state and LA officials alarmed, and that is the plunging number of children receiving vaccinations against diseases like whooping cough and measles, which has left 25 LA Unified schools,
some most of them charters, with a vaccination rate that is below the levels recommended by health officials.
State law requires kindergartners to be vaccinated against nine diseases, but allows for parents to opt out if it violates their personal beliefs. As a result, the number of California parents invoking the personal belief exemption has doubled in the last seven years, according to the Los Angeles Times. The trend is particularly high in Los Angeles County. (The list below shows the 10 LA Unified schools with the highest opt-out rates.)
The percentage of kindergarten classes in California in which at least 8 percent of students are not fully vaccinated has also doubled, a disturbing trend because for a community to be immune to diseases like measles and whooping cough, a concept known as “herd immunity,” experts say at least 92 percent of kids need to be immune, the Times reported.
The Hollywood Reporter noted that some schools in LA have a vaccination rate on par with South Sudan, and that the falling immunization rates have led to an outbreak of whooping cough around the state.
Inspired by celebrities like Jenny McCarthy and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who led public crusades against vaccinations by saying they threatened public health and could cause medical conditions like autism, many parents in LA have followed the advice and opted out of vaccinating their kids.
The spread of anti-vaccination beliefs has happened despite Kennedy’s citing of data that went against “broad scientific consensus” and McCarthy’s citing a totally debunked scientific study, then backing off her anti-vaccination position, the Hollywood Reporter noted.
The California Department of Public Health, Immunization Branch has a great interactive map here.