Marin Vaccine Fears May Be Linked to Illness Outbreak

Unfounded fear of vaccinations could lead to rise in nearly conquered diseases

By Jackson West
|  Tuesday, Jul 20, 2010  |  Updated 5:19 PM PDT
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Marin Vaccine Fears May Be Linked to Illness Outbreak

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Vaccines are not "dangerous chemicals," but essentially a harmless dose of common pathogens used to prepare the immune system to ward off larger infections.

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Marin County isn't exactly a hotbed of religious fundamentalists that reject modern medicine. It is, however, prone to fall for health fads.

And the latest one could be contributing to children coming down with the whooping cough, or pertussis, for which a safe, inexpensive and effective vaccine has existed for generations.

The county leads the state in both the number of kindergartner showing up to school with "personal belief exemption" waivers from required vaccinations, and also leads the state in cases of pertussis.

While correlation does not necessarily equal causation -- older students and adults may not be receiving necessary booster shots every seven years -- the state is on track for its worst pertussis outbreak in 50 years, and one has to wonder if it isn't fueled in part by misplaced hysteria over the supposed dangers of vaccines.

A research study published in Lancet in 1998 suggesting a link between one popular vaccine combination, the Mumps-Measles-Rubella or MMR vaccine, only sampled 12 patients. The Diphtheria, tuberculosis and pertussis, or DtaP vaccine, seems to have found itself guilty by association.

And the study's author, British Doctor Andrew Wakefield, was found to have been paid by a lawyer looking for a class-action lawsuit and to have falsified research to lead to its erroneous conclusion. The article was retracted by Lancet, and Wakefield has since lost his privilege to practice medicine in the United Kingdom.

But that hasn't stopped true believers -- like Hollywood couple Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy, who naturally have many years of medical training and advanced degrees in immunology -- from endangering their children and those of other parents by withholding or delaying immunization.

Jackson West personally believes that socialization, along with vaccination, is your best defense.

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