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It looks like a combination of the top and low ends of the socioeconomic distribution, Geographic clusters of underimmunization identified in Northern California:

Underimmunization ranged from 18 percent to 23 percent within clusters, compared with 11 percent outside clusters. Between 2010 and 2012, geographic clusters of underimmunization were found in:

  • the East Bay (Richmond to San Leandro);
  • Sonoma and Napa counties;
  • a small area of east Sacramento;
  • northern San Francisco and southern Marin counties; and
  • a small area of Vallejo.

“Shot limiting,” in which parents limit the number of injections or antigens that children receive during a pediatric visit to two or fewer, was found to cluster in similar areas.

Vaccine refusal ranged from 5.5 percent to 13.5 percent within clusters, compared with 2.6 percent outside clusters. Between 2010 and 2012, geographic clusters of vaccine refusal were found in:

  • the East Bay (El Cerrito to Alameda);
  • Marin and southwest Sonoma counties;
  • northeastern San Francisco;
  • northeastern Sacramento County and Roseville; and
  • a small area south of Sacramento

The paper is not live, but it will be here at some point. In Southern California most of the resistance has been in affluent areas, and in some of these areas the fraction immunized is definitely below the herd immunity threshold. Though this trend looks like it may finally have levelled off in California.

• Category: Science • Tags: Anti-Vaccination, Vaccination 
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Kristin_Cavallari_2014_NBC_Universal_Summer_Press_Day_(cropped) One of the weird things about the anti-vaccination movement in the United States is that though it is often perceived to be liberal, its political orientation is pretty mixed. Chris Mooney put up a long data filled post a few weeks ago detailing this, including citing some of my old posts looking at GSS data. In general what you see is that for many “anti-science” views the biggest correlate is being stupid, not being liberal or conservative. Basically the less intelligent/educated/wealthy are more suspicious of “book learning,” and that includes science.

But the perception that anti-vaccination sentiment is liberal isn’t coming out of thin air. The issue is that a small and motivated culturally prominent social sector on the Left is promoting this viewpoint, out of proportion to its numbers and policy heft. By the latter, I mean that the liberal political establishment arguably has less sympathy with anti-vaccination sentiment than some of the more conspiratorial Tea Party people on the Right (though I guess Robert Kennedy weighs against that point). Less tendentiously, anti-vaccination sentiment is just plain counter-cultural, and has little traction among the political elites. In California anti-vaccination sentiment as reflected in lower rates of inoculation seem correlated with affluent liberal enclaves. But I stumbled on a more shocking illustration. Number of Marin children without vaccinations continues to grow; health officials worried:

And the rate is much higher than that at some Marin schools. At The New Village School in Sausalito, 14 of the 19 students entering kindergarten in 2012-13, 74 percent, exercised the personal belief exemption. That same year at the Greenwood School in Mill Valley, 14 of 21 incoming kindergartners, 67 percent, used the personal belief exemption. And at San Geronimo Valley Elementary in 2012-13, 13 of 29 kindergartners, 45 percent, avoided vaccinations using the personal belief exemption. Officials at the schools declined to comment.

These are very small numbers. The overall rate of lack of vaccination for young people seems be 7 to 8 percent in the county as a whole (not trivial, since that’s the on the edge of what researchers feel is necessary for “herd immunity”). But I was curious about these schools. The Greenwood School has a tuition of $20,000 per year. New Village is $16,000 per year. San Geronimo Elementary seems to be a public school, but it is notable that the Wikipedia entry references the liberalism of the citizenry.

As I noted above if a large enough fraction of the population is vaccinated then that confers herd immunity. Assuming that 93 percent or more of the population is vaccinated is there any material benefit from avoiding vaccination? Obviously there is the issue with discomfort. My children screamed like the dickens when they were first vaccinated. But I do assume that there are rare cases when vaccination actually does cause problems. A friend of mine from when I was younger died of an allergic reaction to the Anthrax vaccine when he was being inducted into the military. Apparently a small number of deaths can be justified by the greater good in this case.

• Category: Science • Tags: Anti-Vaccination 
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Credit: Mother Jones

Over at Mother Jones Tasneem Raja and Chris Mooney have a rather alarming article up, How Many People Aren’t Vaccinating Their Kids in Your State? This is no joke. I’ve talked earlier about the fact that during my wife’s pregnancy we were confronted by rather strong anti-vaccination sentiments within the community. Because of our generally scientific bent it had no effect on us, but we saw how persuaded, or persuadable, many of our friends and acquaintances were. Without a scientific background people often rely on authorities, and those authorities can lead them astray.

One issue that has come up on occasion is the political orientation of the anti-vaccination movement. Many have assumed that it has a Left-liberal bias. I’m actually moderately skeptical of a strong political association (e.g., Michele Bachmann). But the map above suggested to me that we should test the proposition that there’s at least a state level correlation between exemptions and vote for Obama in 2012. The data was easy to get.

The raw Obama vote % and vaccination exemptions correlated at 0.08 (p-value 0.59). Pretty much nothing. But, I thought it might be more interesting to look at Obama vote for whites. Here the correlation was 0.25 (p-value 0.09). This is still a modest correlation, but it does suggest a political tinge. But rather than a standard Left-Right axis, I think we’re seeing a “crunchy counter-culture” sentiment. Here’s a scatterplot with state labels for what it’s worth….


• Category: Ideology, Science • Tags: Anti-Vaccination, Vaccination 
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First, if it is clear that you haven’t read the post itself and leave a comment I won’t just not publish it, but I’ll ban you. Second, if you complain about this in the comments, I’ll ban you too. Now that you feel appropriately welcome, I want to explore some of the issues beneath Chris Mooney’s post, Vaccine Denial and the Left:

So I want to further explain my assertion that vaccine denial “largely occupies” the political left. It arises, basically, from my long familiarity with this issue, having read numerous books about it, etc.

First, it is certainly true that environmentalists and Hollywood celebrities have been the loudest proponents of anti-vaccine views. To me, that is evidence, although not necessarily definitive. So is the fact that we see dangerously large clusters of the unvaccinated in places like Ashland, Oregon, and Boulder, Colorado, which are very leftwing cities.

What’s tricky is, there’s not a standard left-right political ideology underlying this. Rather, it seems more associated with a Whole Foods and au natural lifestyle that, while certainly more prominent on the bicoastal left, isn’t the same as being outraged by inequality or abuses of the free market.

This is a tricky issue. There is a stereotype that liberals who reject religion tend to gravitate toward New Age/environmentalist spirituality. “The mind abhors a vacuum” model. I used to accept this, but if you poke around the General Social Survey the reality is more complicated. For example, you can look up attitudes toward genetically modified food and astrology. The results don’t fall neatly into a Left-Right dichotomy. Part of the issue is that there has been aggregation of distinct groups into on catchall category. Consider me. I identify as a conservative, which would indicate a far higher odds of me being a Creationist, but I’m clearly not.

There aren’t any questions about vaccination in the General Social Survey, but there are several about trust and faith in science, or lack thereof. First I pruned all of the questions which were before 1998. So the results below are for the 2000s by and large. After that I had a set of variables to play with, to serve as replicates in terms of observing trends. Below are three tables with my results.

Table #1 is just a set of results which shows how political ideology, party identification, and educational attainment, correlate with attitudes toward science. So in that table the columns add up to 100%. So below 4% of liberals strongly agree while the assertion that “we trust too much in science,” and 21% strongly disagree.

The second table is limited to self-identified liberals. I wanted to query how attitudes toward science vary by demographic among liberals. In this case the rows add up to 100% on the margin (rotated from the first table). So in terms of those who strongly agree that we trust too much in science, 29% are male and 71% female, among self-identified liberals. Remember that in some classes there won’t be a 50/50 breakdown, so look for the variation in relative trends.

Finally, for the third table I have a regression. I now divided the sample into liberal and conservative groups, and ran a set of variables to predict opinions on the questions which I’ve covered so far. The first row has the R-squared, the magnitude of which illustrates how much the listed variables predict variation on the question. Subsequent rows have beta values for the variables, which indicate the direction and magnitude of the effect from that given variable. The questions are all easily numerical, or recoded as numerical (e.g., atheist, agnostic…to total belief in God is 1, 2…6). To get an intuition as to what’s going on, just look at each variable and its value. Those which are bold are statistically significant at p = 0.05. For example, among liberals confidence in belief in god seems to decrease trust in science. Socioeconomic status seems to increase it.

Please note that I’ve omitted some categories for variables where the sample size is too small, so some rows/columns may be less than 100% (e.g., Jews in “religion”). Additionally I’ve removed some response classes where N < 25, as the noise can confuse the trend line.

TRUSTCI We trust too much in science
Strongly agree 4 8 10
Agree 16 23 28
Neither 22 30 25
Disagree 37 28 29
Strongly disagree 21 11 8
Strongly agree 7 8 9
Agree 22 23 26
Neither 24 31 27
Disagree 32 24 30
Strongly disagree 14 14 9
DEGREE Non-college College
Strongly agree 9 3
Agree 26 16
Neither 27 23
Disagree 29 34
Strongly disagree 8 24
NEXTGEN Science & tech. give more opportunities to next generation
Strongly agree 42 35 40
Agree 48 57 53
Disagree 8 8 6
Strongly disagree 2 1 1
Strongly agree 38 34 41
Agree 54 56 52
Disagree 7 10 6
Strongly disagree 1 1 1
DEGREE Non-college College
Strongly agree 36 45
Agree 55 50
Disagree 8 5
Strongly disagree 1 0
SCIFAITH Believe too much in science, not enough in faith
Strongly agree 10 9 15
Agree 32 40 37
Neither 23 28 25
Disagree 24 18 20
Strongly disagree 11 5 3
Strongly agree 11 10 12
Agree 38 38 37
Neither 23 29 27
Disagree 21 18 20
Strongly disagree 7 5 4
DEGREE Non-college College
Strongly agree 13 5
Agree 41 27
Neither 25 27
Disagree 17 29
Strongly disagree 4 11
TOOFAST Science makes our way of life change too fast
Strongly agree 10 8 9
Agree 31 42 38
Disagree 48 43 45
Strongly disagree 12 7 8
Strongly agree 10 10 7
Agree 38 42 36
Disagree 43 41 48
Strongly disagree 9 7 8
DEGREE Non-college College
Strongly agree 11 5
Agree 40 31
Disagree 43 50
Strongly disagree 6 14
SCISPEC Science is too concerned with theory and speculation
Strongly agree 4 7 6
Agree 23 33 36
Disagree 50 53 52
Strongly disagree 23 7 6
Strongly agree 6 7 5
Agree 29 34 33
Disagree 50 52 53
Strongly disagree 15 7 7
DEGREE Non-college College
Strongly agree 7 3
Agree 35 23
Disagree 51 54
Strongly disagree 7 20

Opinions of science of self-identified liberals. Rows = 100% or less
We trust too much in science
Male Female
Strongly agree 29 71
Agree 42 58
Neither 43 57
Disagree 46 54
Strongly disagree 49 51
White Black
Strongly agree 40 47
Agree 59 28
Neither 77 13
Disagree 80 11
Strongly disagree 86 1
Non-college College
Strongly agree 86 14
Agree 81 19
Neither 72 28
Disagree 64 36
Strongly disagree 40 60
Protestant Catholic None
Strongly agree 65 21 6
Agree 58 25 9
Neither 36 32 22
Disagree 38 27 23
Strongly disagree 30 18 39
Science & tech. Give more opportunities to next generation
Male Female
Strongly agree 41 59
Agree 43 57
Disagree 55 45
White Black
Strongly agree 73 13
Agree 72 18
Disagree 69 20
Non-college College
Strongly agree 59 41
Agree 66 34
Disagree 67 33
Protestant Catholic None
Strongly agree 33 24 29
Agree 40 25 25
Disagree 54 16 27
Believe too much in science, not enough in faith
Male Female
Strongly agree 33 67
Agree 40 60
Neither 39 61
Disagree 39 61
Strongly disagree 53 47
White Black
Strongly agree 52 37
Agree 60 26
Neither 74 16
Disagree 84 7
Strongly disagree 91 2
Non-college College
Strongly agree 84 16
Agree 81 19
Neither 70 30
Disagree 54 46
Strongly disagree 39 61
Protestant Catholic None
Strongly agree 52 21 14
Agree 47 31 10
Neither 34 30 29
Disagree 37 21 28
Strongly disagree 15 6 60

Regression results
R-squared 0.207 0.026 0.178 0.088 0.149
Age 0.014 -0.004 0.04 -0.05 -0.037
Socioeconomic index 0.279 0.048 0.04 0.159 0.13
Educational attainment -0.047 -0.212 0.107 0.062 -0.019
Vocab score 0.155 0.086 0.112 0.12 0.306
Confidence in belief in God -0.275 0.069 -0.314 -0.083 -0.135
R-squared 0.096 0.02 0.13 0.06 0.087
Age -0.052 0.029 -0.071 -0.11 -0.06
Socioeconomic index -0.017 -0.034 0.032 0.007 0.072
Educational attainment 0.05 -0.036 0.141 0.115 -0.031
Vocab score -0.057 -0.026 0.109 0.145 0.245
Confidence in belief in God -0.327 0.044 -0.266 -0.091 -0.18

• Category: Science • Tags: Anti-Vaccination, Social Science, Vaccination 
Razib Khan
About Razib Khan

"I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. If you want to know more, see the links at"