We were warned this would happen. No one can be shocked the day finally arrived when a disease once effectively eradicated came roaring back to life within the comfy First World confines of the U.S. We always knew that the irresponsible and ignorant anti-vaccine movement would pave the way for something like the measles outbreak that's currently burning its way through at least 19 states, which means we had to know that our tolerance and indulgence of this movement would one day come around to bite us in the ass. Well, it did. And consequently, that tolerance and indulgence seems to finally be coming to an end. On Wednesday, two California lawmakers announced plans to introduce legislation that would effectively end "personal belief exemptions" to childhood vaccines for parents seeking to enroll their kids in the state's schools.
California is ground zero for the current measles eruption, with 92 confirmed cases and counting, most of them stemming from an outbreak that began at Disneyland. In a sane world, an infected person moving through one of the busiest theme parks in America -- a place packed with children, some of whom are too young to be properly vaccinated -- would've been halted by herd immunity. But Orange County, where Disneyland is located, isn't an entirely sane world; it's an area that's home to a large population of affluent, "wellness"-obsessed white people who are boutique juice-cleansed to the point of crapping water and who believe each of their children is a special snowflake whose body should never be sullied by man-made toxins. It's this casual, insular arrogance -- combined with the strange paranoia that's a natural byproduct of it -- which has not surprisingly made Orange County a "cluster of dark red" on a map of the areas which have seen the most personal belief exemption filings in California.
But as they say, you abuse the privilege, you lose it. And that's why State Senator Ben Allen and fellow Democrat Richard Pan have announced plans to co-sponsor a bill that would remove the choice from California parents insistent on ignoring proven science in favor of listening to whatever like-minded mommy Jenny McCarthy and the all-knowing Dr. Google have to say about vaccines. "The high number of unvaccinated students is jeopardizing public health not only in schools but in the broader community," says Allen. "We need to take steps to keep our schools safe and our students healthy." If Allen and Pan can push this legislation through, it would make California the 33rd state in the nation to stop parents from being able to opt out of a full vaccine regimen for their children. Sure, they can still choose not to vaccinate, but they'd better be ready to home-school all by their lonesome if that's the case.
California Governor Jerry Brown, who by the way was the guy who utterly defanged the last attempt at keeping every student in his state properly vaccinated, has said he's very willing to consider new restrictions. California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer appealed directly to Brown, letting him know that given how the chickens have come home to roost on California's plan to be endlessly indulgent of all lifestyle choices -- no matter how stupid or hazardous to the public -- it might be time to clamp down specifically on people who are putting children within the state and far outside of it at risk. Brown, knowing which side his electoral bread is buttered on, is finally coming around on this. And it's about damn time. If California continues to be the nation's leading exporter of once-eradicated diseases that have the potential to kill small children, the work Brown has done clawing this state out of bankruptcy will almost certainly be undone by an avalanche of lawsuits from all directions.
I usually end these kinds of columns with an appeal to vaccinate your kids. But as it turns out, thankfully, most people may not have a choice much longer. Welcome to the herd, precious.
(h/t Salon's Mary Beth Williams, to whom I totally owe the headline)