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Anti-vax stupidity is spreading like measles

Anti-vax stupidity is spreading like measles
People rally against a proposed state bill that would remove parents' ability to claim a philosophical exemption to opt their school-age children out of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, on Feb. 8 in Olympia, Wash. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Feb. 9, 2018. There may be snow everywhere in our local mountains, but all of Los Angeles County is still officially in a low-level drought. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

On some level, I empathize with the parents who withhold or delay vaccination for their children. While polio, rubella and other child maladies have largely faded from the modern parenting experience (because of vaccination, you should want to scream), autism has done precisely the opposite. Parents of young children today go on autism walks, are educated about early warning signs and subjected to ill-considered “debates” on the unfounded link between vaccines and autism. In contrast, no one today raises money for polio awareness, and how many cases of chickenpox have you heard about lately?


That might be about to change, and not because public health officials have won us all over. Pockets of the country known as havens for vaccine-skeptical parents are experiencing serious and completely unnecessary measles outbreaks, as are other parts of the world. All of this is totally unnecessary and aided by social media and exceedingly permissive laws, says the L.A. Times editorial board:

This distrust of vaccinations — which is all too common in the United States as well — is easily spread over social media, where a debate rages about whether the medicines themselves are dangerous. One persistent but entirely groundless fear is that vaccines cause autism. There’s no data to back up that assertion, and there is scientific evidence — quite a lot of it — showing that vaccinations save lives. But the narrative is durable particularly because the threat of measles — which has been virtually absent for a generation — is to many people more distant than autism.

Domestically, measles is breaking out in states — Washington, Oregon and Texas — that allow parents to opt out of vaccinations for their kids on the basis of their “personal beliefs.” California used to be one of those states until a serious outbreak at Disneyland in 2014 woke lawmakers to the fact that the “personal belief” exemption had been allowing childhood immunization rates to decline to dangerous levels. With measles so easily transmittable, populations with low vaccinations rates can be at risk from an outbreak half a world away.

In some places, it is understandable why people are skeptical of what they’re told. The lack of confidence in measles vaccinations plummeted in the Philippines in recent years after the maker of a government-sanctioned vaccination for dengue fever admitted it would not protect some children and perhaps even make them sicker.

Around the world, too many people seem to believe that vaccinations don’t really matter any more. Loose vaccination rules contribute to that sense. But those attitudes must change. Parents need to understand that vaccines save lives.

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If God is on Team Trump, then God has changed. Religion professor Randall Balmer checks Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ claim that God wanted Donald Trump to become president against Scripture and notes a few passages — the command to “welcome the stranger,” injunctions against lying and discouragement of adultery, among others — that might suggest otherwise. In response, a reader says abortion alone accounts for Trump’s strong support among evangelicals.

How one former drug addict got hooked on OxyContin: Author Dani Fleischer says she was having a nervous breakdown while home from college visiting her parents, and her mother innocently handed her part of an OxyContin tablet. Her reaction: “This feels like home.” Readers who suffer from chronic pain and rely on opioids to manage their condition describe their “highs” as being far from the “shimmering” effect mentioned by Fleischer, and more like temporary relief from their persistent discomfort.

California needs to try YIMBYism. Decades ago, writer Bill Boyarksy bought his modest bungalow in West L.A. for the then-high price of $92,000. He has benefited from skyrocketing housing prices and improved safety, but it’s wrong that what has enabled the rapid wealth inflation of property owners — the severe constriction in housing supply — is now threatening those who want their part of the California dream. Boyarksy’s remedy: a bill in the state Legislature that would allow for high-density housing to go up in neighborhoods close to transit corridors. L.A. Times

Strippers are independent contractors, not employees, says Stormy Daniels. There are several reasons why this is so — for privacy, the ability to dance for whom and where you want and more — but a recent state Supreme Court decision threatens the employment status of strippers because their work is not “outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.” California needs a way to give all workers, whether employees or contractors, access to affordable healthcare and safety protections without forcing them to be classified one way or the other, Daniels says. L.A. Times

Birthright Israel has a problem. The program, which provides free educational trips to Israel for young Jewish people throughout the world, claims to be nonpolitical but conspicuously avoids any mention at all of the West Bank, checkpoints or the pre- and post-1967 boundaries, writes Judd Olanoff, who traveled with Birthright in 2008. “Birthright is a generous and valuable gift,” he writes. “But the program must reconsider its approach, or it risks failing the next generation of American Jews.” L.A. Times