Despite a lack of any credible scientific support, the anti-vaccination movement continues apace.  Boosted by celebrity “experts” Jenny McCarthy, RFK Jr., and Dr. Oz, the campaign to discredit vaccination has encouraged many parents to refrain from vaccinating their children, and now we are beginning to see the results.

Dr. Paul Offit writes in the Wall Street Journal:

Almost 8,000 cases of pertussis, better known as whooping cough, have been reported to California’s Public Health Department so far this year. More than 250 patients have been hospitalized, nearly all of them infants and young children, and 58 have required intensive care. Why is this preventable respiratory infection making a comeback? In no small part thanks to low vaccination rates . . .

Who is choosing not to vaccinate? The answer is surprising. The area with the most cases of whooping cough in California is Los Angeles County, and no group within that county has lower immunization rates than residents living between Malibu and Marina Del Ray, home to some of the wealthiest and most exclusive suburbs in the country. At the Kabbalah Children’s Academy in Beverly Hills, 57% of children are unvaccinated. At the Waldorf Early Childhood Center in Santa Monica, it’s 68%, according to the Hollywood Reporter’s analysis of public-health data.

These are the kind of immunization rates that can be found in Chad or South Sudan. . . .

The anti-vaccine junk science has real consequences because it encourages parents not to vaccinate their children, and as vaccination rates decline, the herd immunity that helps protect all of us, and those who are particularly vulnerable most of all.

Children not vaccinated against whooping cough are 24 times more likely to catch the disease. Furthermore, about 500,000 people in the U.S. can’t be vaccinated, either because they are receiving chemotherapy for cancer or immune-suppressive therapies for chronic diseases, or because they are too young. They depend on those around them to be vaccinated. Otherwise, they are often the first to suffer. And because no vaccine is 100% effective, everyone, even those who are vaccinated, is at some risk.

During the Hobby Lobby debate, some wondered what would happen if groups made religious objections to providing vaccines. This is a moot point. At present, nearly every state allows parents to opt of vaccination requirements for religious reasons.  Some 20 states allow exemptions for “philosophical” reasons too.  Only two states, West Virginia and Mississippi, only allow medical exemptions to vaccine requirements.

Irony alert: RFK Jr. apparently believes the Koch brothers are guilty of “treason” for supporting climate skeptics and should prosecuted for “reckless endangerment.”  (He apparently ignores their funding of things like this.)  According to RFK Jr., it should be “criminal” (his word) to espouse mistaken views if those views endanger others. By this logic, RFK Jr. himself should have been locked up long ago due to his anti-vaccine crusade.

(Note: Just to be clear, while I believe his anti-vaccine crusade is irresponsible and reprehensible — and have long argued he has trouble with the truth — I don’t support prosecuting RFK Jr. for his antediluvian views on vaccines. The point is that the legal principle he espouses would condemn him as, if not more, easily than those he targets.)