Nearly 20 Percent of School-Aged Children in Marin Not Vaccinated

Marin has one of the lowest rates in the state for child immunizations, although Novato parents much more likely to immunize

By Jim Welte

An article in Slate magazine earlier this month asked whether parents who decline to immunize their children should be sued or charged with a crime when their decision leads to an outbreak of illness.

The piece centered around a 2008 San Diego incident where an unvaccinated 7-year-old boy caught measles in Switzerland and then passed the virus on to 11 other unvaccinated kids.

The article comes as Marin County’s rate of immunizations continues to drop, with only 82 percent of school-aged children immunized, according to data from the California Department of Public Health. The numbers are especially low in Corte Madera and Larkspur. Novato is an exception, with 95 percent of school-age children immunized.

In California, kindergartners need five DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis), four polio, three hepatitis B, two MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and one varicella (chickenpox) shot. But the state is one of 18 where parents may still enroll students who have not been immunized if they claim an exemption due to personal beliefs. 

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law last fall a bill requiring parents who exclude their children from immunization requirements to submit a signed statement that they received information about risks and benefits of vaccines. In doing so, however, Brown directed the state Department of Health to provide a way for people whose religious beliefs preclude vaccinations from having to seek a health care practitioner's signature.

A study by the California Department of Public Health in 2010 found that 80 percent of parents who don't immunize their kids do so because they believe the vaccines pose a health risk.

Sharayn Forkel, the county's immunization coordinator, told the Marin Independent Journal that many parents are still concerned that vaccines will cause autism despite a mountain of medical evidence refuting the idea. One of the most vocal critics of vaccines, former Playboy model Jenny McCarthy, is set to become a co-host of the morning TV talk show The View next month. McCarthy has repeatedly claimed that vaccines played a major role in giving her son autism.

"As one of our pediatricians says to his patients who choose to refuse vaccines, 'I'll work with you on this; but you'll have to agree: if you get your medical advice from Jenny McCarthy, you'll have to get your fashion advice from me,'" Dr. David Witt, an infectious disease specialist at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Rafael, told the IJ.

What do you think? Should parents who decline to immunize their children be sued or charged with a crime when their decision leads to an outbreak of illness? Tell us in the comments below.

Cynthia August 22, 2013 at 02:50 PM
It's not criminal to be stupid. But if an unimmunized child causes a death of an elderly person or another who might not be able to fight off a disease in spite of their own immunizations, I'd say sue the pants off them. The worst part is that these unimmunized children travel to other countries where they can pass on diseases that will result in the deaths of innocents who don't have the luxury of immunizations or decent healthcare. I think these parents think themselves fashionable when in fact they are uninformed and dangerous.
Kim August 22, 2013 at 07:16 PM
I think the old school vaccines are definitely beneficial to our society, but now kids get 49 doses of 14 different vaccines! before the age of 6! How many did we get as kids, 4, 5 maybe? This is just stupid and unnecessary. So is the flu vaccine. I never get it and if you notice it is being pushed harder & harder every year. If I had a child I would vaccinate but only for the EXACT amount that I had as a child and not until the age of 5 or 6 (unless my child was traveling outside the country), nothing more. 3 series for Hep B, is ridiculous. Do you know what a child's chance of Hep B is, virtually nil unless born in an Asian country or to mom with Hep B. Sure the child can choose to get Hep B later in life. That is the other issue, kids are vaccinated with SO many before the age of 6. I do not agree with the timeline or the increased # of doses. Think for yourselves people, do not believe what govt agencies, biotech, or big pharma tell you to think.
Dave August 22, 2013 at 08:28 PM
Have the parents pay for their own health care, private schools and let them live and die, in their Conservative, Libertarian bubble.
Amanda Montgomery August 23, 2013 at 12:14 PM
Medicine is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was when we were kids. There is a wealth of information from reputable sites to debunk just about everything you have stated. I chose this one: ( http://www.parenting.com/article/10-vaccine-myths---busted ) but really, "think for yourselves" versus the collective wisdom of all of the entire medical community is wrong, and to try and promote the idea that vaccines are some kind of conspiracy is to continue to jeopardize lives. Part of the reason there are so many doses is to spread out the minimize the chance of side effects instead of dumping it all in one shot. I recommend googling "vaccine myths" and you'll be overwhelmed with the amount of information from an almost impossibly broad spectrum of sources, practically begging people to stop accepting these rumors as fact and do what needs to be done to save lives.
Amanda Montgomery August 23, 2013 at 12:15 PM
"spread them out to minimize" was what I was going for there.
Patricia Hess August 23, 2013 at 05:43 PM
I find it difficult to believe that reasonably intelligent people will choose to leave their small children unprotected from what are really pretty nasty diseases. Ever seen or heard a child with whooping cough? You'd change your mind.
Richard Pressinger October 23, 2013 at 12:37 PM
90% of children in Vermont as of Sept 2013 who received pertussis vaccinations came down with Pertussis anyway. Similar percentages were also found in California. I don't vaccinate my child, so as long as I can sue parents whose vaccinated children infect my child that sounds fair. To take this a step further, we should also be suing any parent who engages in immune system weakening practices such as spraying pesticides, burning trash, since these practices greatly weaken the immune system and result in infections that the body would otherwise have been able to protect itself from. The U.S. now has the highest outbreak of pertussis infections since 1959. Think about this - we now have more vaccinations than ever, more hand sanitizers, more clorox rinses of children's desks, and we are also seeing even more children infected. hmmmm... interesting isn't it.
Amanda Montgomery October 23, 2013 at 12:50 PM
No, 90% of those who got sick had been vaccinated, not the other way around. HUGE difference. The pertussis vaccine loses it's efficacy over time, but most of those affected were in the age 10-14 range, WELL past the point where whooping cough is likely to be fatal.


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