How Hollywood Stars, Trump and Scientologists Inflame the Vaccine Wars: "It's Spurious but Effective" - 2016-08-31
Throughout Southern California, kids are heading back to school, the time of year in which the childhood immunization debate reaches full boil, uniting everyone from Scientologists and Donald Trump to A-list stars like Robert De Niro and Jim Carrey against stalwart scientific consensus. Thanks in large measure to the efforts of Hollywood heavyweights to keep alive widely discredited views, say medical experts, a potential public health crisis continues to loom.
This was not supposed to be the storyline at the start of this academic year — the first since the July 1 enactment of California's Senate Bill 277, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown to curtail what had been a spiraling parental practice of submitting "personal belief exemptions" in lieu of giving their children shots. The law passed after student vaccination rates dropped to dangerously low levels, particularly at affluent, industry-oriented schools, in the midst of a 2014 pertussis epidemic and a subsequent measles outbreak that began at Disneyland.
But even though SB 277 has been characterized as one of the toughest legislative crackdowns in the country, the bill is full of holes. The biggest issue is a generous grandfather clause for exemptions filed before the end of 2015, meaning a first grader whose vaccination-adverse parents put her paperwork in order last year won't be forced to get her shots until she reaches middle school. To complicate matters, the law allows loosely defined medical exceptions (which could be exploited by lenient doctors), and contains a list of total vaccinations that fall substantially short of the full U.S. Centers for Disease Control suggested schedule.