California Private School Parents Really Don’t Give A Flip About Childhood Vaccinations
The national image of the anti-vaxx parent has taken on quite a few incarnations. The instant visual of hippie parents comes to mind with Oregon mothers and fathers setting their child’s own “alternative” vaccination schedule. Jessica Valenti’s Why Have Kids? depicts anti-vaccination mothers as a disrespected cohort who finds validation in challenging doctors. Some new dispatches from the frontlines of the growing anti-vaccination movement, however, perhaps add new illumination to who this parent actually is: The type who can afford private school.
The Associated Press reports that in the state of California, parents who send their children to private school are more likely to opt out of required vaccinations than those parents who send their kids to public school.
The state surveys all schools with at least 10 kindergartners to determine how many have all the recommended immunizations. The AP analyzed that data and found the percentage of children in private schools who forego some or all vaccinations is more than two times greater than in public schools.
More troubling to public health officials is that the number of children entering private schools without all of their shots jumped by 10 percent last year, while the opt-out rate held steady in public schools for the first time since 2004.
And if that isn’t enough to keep you up at night, consider that AP also discovered that there are 110 private schools across the state where more than half of the kindergartners had failed to get all of their vaccinations. One school by the name of Highland Hall Waldorf School reportedly had 84% of kindergartners opting out.
Disparities between public and private schools proved to be pretty consistant in other arenas too. A reported 15% of the 1,650 private schools in the study had not secured a 90% immunization rate (what public health official recommend.) Yet, only 5% of public schools failed to reach that same rate.
Parents’ reasoning varies from the usual anti-vaxx arguments to believing illness builds “a stronger immune system” to religious values. We already know California to be “one of the easiest vaccine opt-outs in the nation,” according to one doctor.
Still, the disproportionate number of California private school parents versus public school parents has some experts not focusing on one reason in particular:
…there’s no single explanation that accounts for why so many more parents who send their children to private schools apparently share a suspicion of immunizations…Public health officials say that, regardless of why parents choose not to vaccinate their children, the result is the same: an increased risk of an outbreak of whooping cough or other communicable diseases.
State Assemblyman Richard Pan, a pediatrician and a sponsor of a California bill requiring parents to discuss vaccinations with a pediatrician or a school nurse before they can decline, is not shocked. He posits that the ability to put your kids in private school also suggests the means to afford an Internet connection — and thereby spend a lengthy amount of time no doubt floating around into the unknown abysses of anti-vaccination blogs, “seeing information and misinformation.”
Looks like that anti-vaxx parental visual just got a bit clearer.