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Rich Westsiders Don't Care If They Start A Whooping Cough Epidemic

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Westsiders reportedly don't care about herd immunity (Photo by Oksana Kuzmina via Shutterstock)
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Los Angeles may have a whooping cough problem, and it’s been suggested that the "entitled" Westsiders of may be to blame. When it comes to unvaccinated children, the numbers are higher in Hollywood, Malibu and Beverly Hills, according to The Hollywood Reporter. It's the wealthy that are choosing not to vaccinate their children, disregarding the possibility that their actions could lead to an outbreak of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, that could be deadly.

According to the Department of Public Health in California, there have been 1,317 cases of whooping cough in just L.A. County this year, higher than any county in the state. Infection disease specialist Dr. Jeffrey Bender at Children's Hospital Los Angeles told THR some patients "cough so hard, it turns into vomiting and broken ribs; they end up intubated, to ventilate their lungs." This can be fatal in young patients—three infants have died statewide this year. Measles cases are also on the rise, the highest in 20 years, and half of those affected are unvaccinated.

Whooping cough killed over 1,000 people in the 1950, and it's vaccinations that caused that number to plummet. In 1995, for example, only six people in the entire U.S. died of whooping cough.

Vaccinations works on the principle of "herd immunity." This means that most of a population is vaccinated, meaning that those who are susceptible to a disease will not likely encounter a contagious person. The more unvaccinated people in a community, the less effective herd immunity becomes. It's at 6 percent unvaccinated that it starts to falter, which is why the CDC encourages us to follow a recommended vaccination schedule.

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Why would anyone be so selfish as to threaten herd immunity? In our gluten-free, all-natural, anti-GMO, Whole-Foods-shopping city, many of these parents are pursuing "alternative" schedules, don't trust the science or believe that the antigens in vaccinations will hurt their children, even though the CDC reminds them that babies fight off "millions of antigens a day." They're suspicious of 'big pharma.' They cite other countries where vaccination schedules are less rigorous. They use anecdotal evidence to tie allergies, skin conditions and seizures to vaccines—the same way that Jenny McCarthy attempted, despite being debunked, to tie them to autism. They have anecdotal evidence of people who have been just fine without vaccines. And doctors say this type of thinking and inaction may be putting others, including their own kids, at risk.

THR mapped the risk level, showing the percentage of unvaccinated children by school, using the number of students whose guardians said they just decided not to go ahead and follow that CDC schedule. This map lists two particular vaccinations: DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough); and MMR (measles, mumps, rubella). Parents who decide they are smarter than scientists must turn in a Personal Belief Exemption Form, which is how these numbers were derived.

The schools that have the most unvaccinated kids, according to the number of these forms turned in, are on the Westside, from Malibu and into Beverly Hills and WeHo. An average of 9.1 percent of parents of preschoolers turned in forms this past year, which is a staggering 26 percent more than two years before. And in L.A. County on the whole, there's only been 2.2 percent jump. (Note: Parents whose children have late birthdays or who don't feel like getting all the proper signatures may just be turning in PBEs because they plan to vaccinate later, or because it's easier.)

Some of these schools have ridiculously high levels—Kabbalah Children's Academy in Beverly Hills was at 57 percent with the PBE forms. Waldorf Early Childhood Center in Santa Monica was at 68 percent. This puts these schools on par with developing countries, in terms of immunization rates, but these parents are some of the most affluent in the U.S. And for that reason, private schools are reluctant to force parents to follow the CDC rules—these parents have money, and they can just take their kids somewhere else.

In the harshest critique in the article, Dr. Robert Landlaw, a pediatrician in Brentwood, called these parents "flat-world people," saying, "they're speaking against science."