Children’s Vaccination Rates Fall in West Los Angeles

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Source: Gary Baum, “Hollywood’s Vaccine Wars: LA’s ‘Entitled’ Westsiders Behind City’s Epidemic,”, Sep. 10, 2014

Parents in West Los Angeles are making unprecedented use of the “personal belief exemption” (PBE) in order to forgo vaccination schedules for their school-age children. Some schools in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills have reached exemption rates as high as 68%. This is similar to vaccination rates present in Chad or South Sudan, according to The Atlantic.

The Hollywood Reporter found that children attending “exclusive, entertainment-industry-favored child care centers, preschools and kindergartens are far more likely to get sick.” The decrease in vaccinations has led to the resurgence of childhood diseases such as whooping cough (pertussis) and measles. Between Jan. 1, 2014 and Sep. 2, 2014, 8,000 cases of pertussis were reported to the California Department of Public Health. Of those, 267 children were hospitalized, 58 required intensive care, and 3 infants died.
The region of West Los Angeles, encompassing Malibu, Marina Del Ray, Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, Brentwood, West Hollywood, and Beverly Hills, averaged 9.1% of preschoolers claiming a PBE to vaccination in the 2013-2014 school year (a 26% increase from 2011-2012), compared to 2.2% for all of LA County. The Los Angeles Times reports that all of “the more than 150 schools with exemption rates of 8% or higher for at least one vaccine were located in census tracts where the incomes averaged $94,500 — nearly 60% higher than the county median.” Some parents, however, choose to file a PBE even if their children have received some or all required vaccinations because the PBE form is much faster and simpler to complete.

Medical professionals have expressed serious concerns over the falling vaccination rate. The CDC indicates that maintaining herd immunity (in which an entire community is protected if enough of them have been vaccinated)  for measles and whooping cough requires that no more than 6% of the population go unvaccinated. This is no longer the case among the children in many West LA schools. With compromised herd immunity, schools and communities may pose serious health risks to those who cannot be vaccinated, including pregnant women and infants. Actress Amanda Peet expressed frustration with parents who choose not to vaccinate, saying “They act almost concerned for me, and I want to say, ‘Wait a minute, your children are actually benefitting from the barrier I’m putting in place for them, and now you’re questioning my soundness of mind for doing that?'”

Some parents who choose not to follow the recommended schedule of childhood immunizations cite concerns about the effects of the vaccine ingredients, such as allergies and seizures. Others mistrust the corporate motives of the pharmaceutical companies producing the vaccine or question the validity of herd immunity as a concept. Actress Ione Skye was quoted as saying “With my kids, I spaced the [vaccines] out and waited and missed some. As a mother, it just felt better to me — and my kids never had any reaction.”


Gary Baum, “Hollywood’s Vaccine Wars: LA’s ‘Entitled’ Westsiders Behind City’s Epidemic,”, Sep. 10, 2014

Pamela Esquivel and Sandra Poindexter, “Plunge in Kindergarteners’ Vaccine Rates Worries Health Officials,”, Sep. 2, 2014

Olga Khazan, “Wealthy LA Schools’ Vaccination Rates Are as Low as South Sudan’s,”, Sep. 16, 2014

Robert Wilde, “Vaccination Rates Drop in Trendy West LA, As Low As South Sudan,”,  Sep. 17, 2014