New research is likening attitudes about vaccine refusal to the spread of a contagious disease.
Publishing in BMC Public Health yesterday, the authors of the study looked specifically at non-medical vaccine exemptions in California from 2000 to 2013. They found that the number of non-medical exemptions more than tripled in that time but tended to cluster in specific communities. And those clusters, say the data, grew in size as time went on.
Clusters of non-medical vaccine exemptions also tended to be predicters of future hotspots of vaccination refusals, the study finds. This discovery, in particular, prompted the study’s lead author to compare anti-vaccine attitudes to a contagious disease outbreak.
What Drove The Anti-Vax Movement?
The current worldwide fear of vaccines was greatly influenced, say researchers, by a now-discredited (and retracted) 1998 paper that falsely linked autism to the Measles-Mumps-Rubella, or MMR, vaccine.
But things are changing. In 2015 California passed Senate Bill No. 277, which eliminated the personal beliefs exemption for vaccine refusals. It does not force already-exempt children to be vaccinated but mandates that all others be current on all vaccinations unless they hold a valid medical exemption.
The researchers of this new study seem hopeful that their discovery of how anit-vaccine hotspots grow will help health authorities in other jurisdictions better serve vaccine-afraid parents.