Always remember, this never had to happen. In a sane America, this never would’ve happened. It’s staggering to think that so many people failed in their basic responsibility as parents and citizens and were willing to put others at risk in the name of groundless paranoia that the government had to step in and say, “enough.” But that’s how it is: the anti-vaccine movement, in its infinite ignorance and laughable self-righteousness, finally forced the hand of California’s legislature and governor and now the state has made the decision its rabid devotees were never going to. The “anti-vaxxers” were always given a choice; the problem is they consistently made the wrong one. As a result of that, we all got to see the harrowing cost of indulging the conspiratorial fever dreams that provide the backbone of their movement and someone therefore had to step up and put a foot down. As of Tuesday, with the stroke of a pen from California Governor Jerry Brown, the decision whether or not to vaccinate their children has been taken from them. And it’s about goddamn time.
California’s SB 277, signed into law yesterday, effectively eliminates the “personal belief exemption” that parents who get their medical advice from ex-Playboy Playmates and studies done at the prestigious University of Google have used to avoid vaccinating their children over the past several years. From now on, if you plan on sending your child off to school in the Golden State — public or private, anywhere in the state — he or she had better be in full compliance with the CDC’s recommended vaccination schedule. Only a legitimate medicalcontraindication to being vaccinated, as determined by a physician, will stand as reason for exemption anymore. In signing the bill, Brown stated the painfully obvious. “The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases,” he wrote. “While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.” Remember that it’s 2015 and someone is still having to remind people that vaccines are a medical miracle.
The reason California was forced to take these measures to ensure the safety of its children is as obvious as it is depressing. California was ground zero for the measles outbreak that tore through more than a dozen states beginning last December, infecting and sickening 147 people. Orange County, the home of Disneyland where that outbreak began, is one of several affluent areas in the state that act as thriving clusters of anti-vaccination belief. According to the California Department of Public Health, by late last year the rate of fully vaccinated children in some OC schools had dipped below 30%. What this means is that herd immunity is compromised in those schools and communities, putting at risk kids who legitimately can’t be vaccinated but who otherwise would’ve been protected by those around him or her.
The Hollywood Reporter also determined by way of a startling investigation last year, that places like Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Malibu — all wealthy, insular enclaves — were seeing vaccination rates so low that they rivaled developing countries like Chad and Sudan. The irony would be delicious if it weren’t so infuriating. The immunization rates in Chad and Sudan are low because the people there are poor and have difficulty getting access to proper health care; the people in Beverly Hills are rich and have access to the best health care in the world and yet the immunization rates there are low because they’re fucking idiots who are simply choosing to opt out based on paranoia and superstition even the underdeveloped world would balk at. These are 21st century American citizens who should by all accounts know better and yet their extraordinary privilege has deprived them of so many real threats that they have to invent them where they don’t exist just to give them something to fearfully shadow box and to enhance their sense of victimhood.
As I wrote once before, that’s always been the thing about Southern California: the people here are such a lethal combination of trend-savvy and fitness conscious that they latch onto any First World health fad or new bit of celebrity self-help and become insufferable and even dangerous prophets for it. The parents in the areas listed in the THR investigation will feed their children only organic meals because it’ll supposedly keep them healthy but they’ll refuse to do the one thing that will absolutely keep them healthy. The one thing that’s proven to. This — this is why the state finally had no choice but to remove the luxury of choice from these people.
Brown acknowledged the opposition to SB 277 in his signing statement, but by correcting the mistake he made back in 2012 — when he defanged a similar bill put in front of him — he conceded that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the paranoid and ignorant. It was obvious all along that nothing was going to get people dense enough to still insist that childhood vaccines cause autism — a connection that’s been shot down over and over again — to be responsible and consider other people’s children as well as their own. And that was always the issue: that anti-vaxxers weren’t willing to accept that since the world doesn’t consist of just them and their little walking Petri dishes, the decisions they make for their own kids impact others. Like it or not, they’re required not to put other people in danger — and refusing to vaccinate does just that.
It practically goes without saying that the vocal anti-vaccine movement in California wasn’t simply wiped off the face of the earth with the signing of SB277. We’re talking, after all, about people who refuse to relent in the face of science and reason; they certainly won’t let some totalitarian state law stand in their way. If the past couple of weeks have shown us anything, it’s that these days if you don’t approve of a law or a ruling by the courts — up to the highest court in the land — you can always just choose to ignore it or find a clever dodge around it and even a few opportunistic federal lawmakers themselves will back your insurrection. There are outraged whines being aimed at the heavens right now, both from the celebrity dingbats who made this pseudoscientific crap national news and the Million Moron Mom march that’s acted as the movement’s ground troops. They’re now smashing the barriers of their gated communities, shouting, “We shall overcome,” and promising to both fight to overturn the law and in the meantime to homeschool their kids in defiance of California’s newfound Naziism (as if the threat of keeping a bunch of pint-sized Patient Zeroes far away from the rest of us is any threat at all).
But again, none of this had to happen. Anti-vaxxers can complain all they want about the supposedly draconian vaccination mandates the state of California is now imposing, but it was their dangerous irrationality that led to this situation. They were given the choice to follow proven science and mountains of evidence or Jenny McCarthy and the ridiculous assertion that “a mother just knows.” Now they get to live with the consequences of that choice. But that’s alright, because at least the rest of us won’t have to.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.