Anti-Vaccination Hysteria and the Rich


A recent article in Salon suggests that rich people are more likely to buy into anti-vaccine ideas. The author, Alex Seitz-Wald writes:

    California law mandates that all students get vaccinated, but it also makes it easy to get exemptions for personal beliefs. And parents in tony places like Marin County are taking advantage of it in seemingly growing numbers. One public elementary school in Malibu, an affluent beach town just north of Los Angeles, reported that only 58 percent of their students are immunized — well below the recommended 90-plus percent level — according to Shapiro.

    And it’s even worse in some of L.A.’s private schools, where as few as 20 percent of kids are vaccinated in some schools.

We also learn:

    But it’s not just California. Public health officials see large clusters of unvaccinated children in latte-drinking enclaves everywhere, like Ashland, Ore., and Boulder, Colo., where close to 30 percent of children are exempted from one vaccine or another. In some schools in Ashland two-thirds of the students have exemptions, according to Mark Largent, a James Madison College professor who wrote a book about the vaccine debate last year.

This goes against many people’s assumptions about the world. The rich are supposed to be better educated (although George W. Bush put a huge dent in that belief), therefore they should be more immune to anti-scientific beliefs. Yet the Republican Party’s wealthy donors don’t seem bothered by its support for anti-scientific ideas such as creationism and climate change denial. So, could it be possible that the tendency to have anti-scientific beliefs increases with income? I would be interested to know if anyone has done a study on this.

This is a serious matter. Whooping cough (pertussis), which was nearly eradicated has been making a comeback. Infants who are too young to vaccinate are vulnerable to this disease, which is why maintaining a high rate of vaccination is important. Yet vaccination rates have been dropping.

So why do people who should know better refuse to get their children vaccinated? Seitz-Wald quotes a pediatrician, Paul Offit, who says that these people are “used to being in control of their lives and at their jobs and want to control this aspect of their lives as well.” This is probably true, but I suspect there is probably more to it than that. The idea of vaccinations implies a belief in a common good. (Jonas Salk famously refused to accept money for his polio vaccine.) And these elites of our society have increasingly come to hate the idea of a common good.

2 Responses to “Anti-Vaccination Hysteria and the Rich”

  1. rebeccalesses Says:

    I think you might have something there – when I have encountered anti-vaccinationists on the internet, they insist on *their* rights and don’t seem to consider what the effect of their actions might have on others. Some of them don’t even accept the germ theory of disease and believe that vaccines cause illnesses, rather than defending against them.

    • The Spanish Prisoner Says:

      They reject the germ theory of disease? So how do they explain the fact that anti-biotics work? It’s shocking that some people have such ideas.

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