Wired: Anti-vaccine parents common in Silicon Valley

Say_no_to_the_vaccine_by_Ade5The coverage of the measles outbreak in the U.S. often makes the point that opponents of compulsory vaccination for schoolchildren are split politically between affluent leftists with New Age-y views about modern medicine and conservatives who don’t like government telling people how to raise their kids.

But a new investigation suggests which parents are actually more likely to seek vaccination waivers for their kids.

The scientists, technologists, and engineers who populate Silicon Valley and the California Bay Area deserve their reputation as innovators, building entire new economies on the strength of brains and imagination. But some of these people don’t seem to be vaccinating their children.

A Wired investigation shows that some children attending day care facilities affiliated with prominent Silicon Valley companies have not been completely vaccinated against preventable infectious diseases. At least, that’s according to a giant database from the California Department of Public Health, which tracks the vaccination rates at day care facilities and preschools in the state. We selected more than 20 large technology and health companies in the Bay Area and researched their day care offerings. Of 12 day care facilities affiliated with tech companies, six — that’s half — have below-average vaccination rates, according to the state’s data.

And those six have a level of measles vaccination that does not provide the “herd immunity” critical to the spread of the disease. Now, this data has limitations — most critically, it might not be current. But it also suggests an incursion of anti-science, anti-vaccine thinking in one of the smartest regions on Earth.

But before you reach any broad conclusions, watch out. People who understand math will see a flaw that makes the Wired report open to questions about overkill and exaggeration. Consider this sentence:

Of 12 day care facilities affiliated with tech companies, six — that’s half — have below-average vaccination rates, according to the state’s data.

So if you have 12 day-care facilities, how many would one logically expect to have below-average rates? That would be six — six below average, six above average.

Are vaccination rates awful at some tech firms’ day-care center? Wired makes that case about the facility run by iconic Pixar. But based on the numbers the magazine cites, its broader indictment of Silicon Valley doesn’t appear to hold up.

Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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