Anti-vaccine Californians are rich, white, but not necessarily highly educated

At this point, it’s well documented that affluent, educated white communities are behind the surge in unvaccinated kids—and by extension the increase in vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles and whooping cough (pertussis). But there are few studies that dig into the detailed demographics of those unprotected younglings, leaving health experts at a loss for how to target strategies to combat anti-vaccination myths and fears in the specific groups that need it most.

Some help may come in the form of a new analysis of Californian kindergarteners who obtained personal belief exemptions (PBE) from vaccination between 2007 and 2013. Researchers found, as expected, that those kids were most likely to be white, come from high-income homes, and were frequently enrolled in private school. Although kids in this group tend to have parents with lots of schooling, high-education levels among family did not independently track with the rise in vaccine opt-outs.

“Our results call into question the reported link between high-PBE communities and higher average educational attainment,” the study's authors concluded. These findings, published in the American Journal of Public Health, suggest that sharing more scientific data on vaccine safety and the consequences of vaccine-preventable illnesses may not be enough to combat anti-vaccination trends.

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