The California Department of Public Health released a statement yesterday saying that cases of Whooping Cough are at an epidemic level in California. The state is currently on track to deal with the most cases of the disease in over fifty years. The cause of the outbreak is yet undetermined, and could be nothing more than a cyclical rise, but there are rumblings and murmurs that it is related to a perfect storm of a factors that are coalescing to form an epidemiologist's nightmare as increasingly under-vaccinated immigrants interact with and cohabitate among the increasingly under-vaccinated children and parents of the "anti-vax" movement. This news is quite upsetting, especially after having watched a Frontline* program which focuses on this exact scenario playing out in Oregon, where an infant not yet finished with the pertussis vaccination schedule was infected by an anti-vax child from Ashland and almost died as a result.
While there are definite causes for criticism in the CDC's vaccination schedule, completely ignoring its recommendations is, in my opinion, criminally negligent to one's child and to the community at large. Scientist after scientist and study after study have shown that the benefits of vaccinations far outweigh the risks, while the vocal anti-vax advocates have been repeatedly proven wrong, discredited, and disgraced. I fear for the future of a culture that aggressively chooses to deny the scientific method, thereby opting to physically weaken itself by allowing eradicated diseases to once again spread. I for one believe, and I would hope most people would agree, that the absence of immediate exposure to the horrors of diseases like polio and diphtheria is a modern miracle that we should not take for granted.
On a side-note, I would argue that a movement might have enough problems just with Jenny McCarthy as a spokeswoman. It really doesn't help though that a movement that fervently speaks out against the dangers of injecting supposedly toxic vaccines allows Jenny McCarthy to serve as a walking billboard advertisement for botox injections. (The key ingredient in botox is the botulinum toxin, the most toxic naturally occurring substance on the planet.)
On another side-note, I must give credit to Discover Magazine's Bad Astronomy blog for following this issue so well.
*If you are not familiar with Frontline's online catalog, get there. It is perhaps one of the best GUI's on the web in terms of information display and interactivity.