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Ithaca: 10 Square Miles of Liberal Anti-Vaxxers, Surrounded by Reality

Ithaca: 10 Square Miles of Liberal Anti-Vaxxers, Surrounded by Reality

High liberal self-esteem, Low vaccination rates

Due to the alarming outbreak of measles across the country, so-called “anti-vaxxers” are coming under extreme criticism. As well they should be.

I won’t delve into the particulars of the measles outbreak–Legal Insurrection’s Leslie Eastman offers more analysis and some solutions. I’m more interested in the narrative surrounding “VaccineGate.”

Of course, the mainstream media has been fervently trying to frame the anti-vaccination crowd as a collection of screw-balled libertarian Tea Partiers. It’s a slam-dunk narrative, so they think, because conservatives and libertarians are naturally opposed to big government and, for the most part, are skeptical of government actions, programs, and mandates in general.

As the mainstream media tries to make out anti-vaxxers as Ted Kaczynski disciples who so-happen to vote Republican, it is gradually coming to light that the anti-vaccination crowd is actually quite bipartisan, and that the whole movement was started by liberal-progressives in southern California. Comedian, actress, and Playboy model Jenny McCarthy is perhaps the most notable anti-vaxxer.

In Ithaca, New York, a bastion of liberalism which some call “ten square miles surrounded by reality,” vaccination rates at elementary schools are well below state averages. Some local schools, both public and private, have measles vaccination rates below 90%, whereas the state average is 95%.

This is rather disturbing, since the 95% level is what is considered necessary to establish “herd immunity.” Yet, what is most interesting here is that of the seven schools in the Ithaca City School District with vaccination rates below 95%, only two are traditional public schools. The rest are private schools, a charter school, and an “alternative school.” The schools with the lowest vaccination rates are the Ithaca Waldorf School, a private school with a 72% vaccination rate, and the Lehman Alternative Community School. It’s also worthy to note that the public school with the lowest vaccination rate is also the closes to Cornell University.

Why is it noteworthy that the Ithaca Waldorf School, an alternative private school that eschews normal pedagogical methods, reports only 72% of students are vaccinated against measles, and that Fall Creek Elementary, minutes from Cornell’s campus, only reports an 84.4% vaccination rate?

Think about the types of parents who live in Ithaca, and on top of that, the types of parents who would send their children to these types of schools. First of all, Fall Creek Elementary is located near Cornell, making it convenient for faculty and administrators to send their children there.

Then take a look at Ithaca Waldorf School, where students make their own textbooks with “first with colorful crayons and later with colored pencils,” or the Lehman Alternative Community School, a high school where students do not receive grades. Sure, normal public schools aren’t great in their pedagogical methods, but these dangerously-low vaccinated alternative schools in Ithaca are a hippie, disaffected liberal parent’s dream.

Additionally, the private schools in Ithaca don’t run cheap. Tuition at the Ithaca Waldorf School is about $10,000 a year for elementary school, and about $11,000 for middle school (junior high school). Clearly, spending upwards of $80,000 for your kid’s or kids’ educations before they are even in high school is only something considerably wealthy parents can afford.

Bumper Sticker - Ithaca - Reality Well Known Liberal Bias

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (D&C) reports:

“There’s a segment of parents in the Ithaca area that are somewhat resistant to having their kids vaccinated — maybe all vaccines, or some. It varies,” said Theresa Lyczko, public information officer for the Tompkins County Health Department. “They tend to be highly educated people. They question a lot of things.”

Some of the reluctance to vaccinate, in Ithaca and similar enclaves of well-educated contrarians around the country, stems from a suspicion — completely discounted by medical experts and public health officials — that vaccines are linked to autism or other illnesses.

In Ithaca, public health workers, physicians and school officials have formed a coalition to encourage more immunization, and have held information sessions for parents.

But convincing vaccine refusers can be difficult.

“If you give them information … that doesn’t change their mind. These are people who tend to be pretty well-informed about some things, but very mistrusting about the data,” said Dr. Cynthia Rand, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry who conducts research on immunization.

In sum, one can surmise that the parents sending their kids to places like the Ithaca Waldorf School are a cross-section of the city’s wealthier residents and the city’s “neo-hippies and independent thinkers” as the D&C likes them.

Basically, liberal elitists, just like those in southern California. Case in point: as many as 60-70% of parents whose children attend the wealthiest of schools in and around Los Angeles, located in posh areas like Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, havefiled for “personal belief exemptions” to avoid having to vaccinate their kids (like conscientious exemption during the Vietnam War).  This doesn’t conclusively mean these parents are not vaccinating their children, but if they are in fact not, then these schools’ vaccination rates as low as that of sub-Saharan African countries.

Naturally, this isn’t to say all anti-vaxxers are zany liberals; doing so would make me no different that the mainstream media trying to make them out as zany conservatives. What it means, is that the mainstream media narrative, as per usual, is bust.

Pew research conducted in August 2014 showed that 68% of U.S. adults believe it should be required for parents to vaccinate their children whereas 30% believe parents should be able to decide. The data did show that both Republicans and Independents more than Democrats are inclined to say that parents should be able to decide. The percentage of Republicans favoring parent choice grew since 2009 by eight percentage points while the percentage of Democrats dropped by five. Back in 2009, Democrats actually favored parent choice over Republicans by one percentage point.


What explains this large change? One could say that perhaps it has to do with politics, not science.

By 2009, Democrats had grown weary of eight years of Republican presidency and had grown skeptical of government, which explains why they were more inclined to favor parent choice. In 2014, Republicans had become extremely skeptical of government thanks to the Obama presidency, and thus the number of Republicans opposing all types of government programs, mandates, etc. has naturally rose. This is pure speculation.

The Pew research  also showed that younger people favor parent choice more than older people do. In a city like Ithaca where nearly everyone is a Democrat this finding doesn’t amount to much, but it’s common knowledge younger people at the national level tend to vote Democratic. This isn’t to say that the anti-vaccine crowd is entirely composed or even majority-composed of Democrats, but it is data that counters the dominant narrative that anti-vaxxers are all Republicans.


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Perhaps the media’s spin that anti-vaccers are eighties is an ingenious ploy. The lefties who are the true anti-vaccers would not be persuaded by data, but they are likely to want to disassociate themselves from righties. The media spin may be the one technique likely to get anti-vaccers to change course.

Same story in highly liberal Madison, WI. Some schools in the University/hippie kids parts of town have vaccination waiver rates as high as 13.8% compared to Wisconsin’s overall average of 4.3%. (source: Wisconsin State Journal)

Elementary school enrollment in the Ithaca City School District is based on residency, not what’s closest to where parents work. Cornell faculty children are much more likely to attend Cayuga Heights Elementary School, Northeast Elementary School or Belle Sherman Elementary School, two of which are as close to the Cornell campus as Fall Creek. Waldorf School is tiny, fewer than 100 students, probably closer to 50-60 students. It would in no way, shape or form be considered a “cross section” of much of anything in Ithaca except “neo-hippies”. Cayuga Heights and Northeast would have the highest family income and educational demographics of all the ICSD elementary schools.

Two of the elementary schools referenced in the linked to Ithaca Voice article are the only “downtown” elementary schools in Ithaca and both have <95% vaccination rates. However, the common thread between those two schools isn't wealth or education, but rather just the opposite.

As much as I agree with the point being made by this article, using Ithaca as an exemplar is a stretch.

SoCA Conservative Mom | February 9, 2015 at 11:42 am

When enrolling a child in school in California, there is a mountain of forms to fill out. There is a form that must be filled out by a physician indicating the overall health of the child and any medical issues present. This means a trip to the doctor, co-pays, out of pocket expenses, and time. The waiver only requires a parent’s signature. There is another form that indicates the child has been examined by a dentist and necessary dental work has been completed. This requires a trip to the dentist, co-pays, out of pocket expenses, and time. The waiver only requires a signature. There is another form to be filled out that indicates the child has received vaccines and a copy of the vaccination record must be attached. The waiver only requires a signature.

How many parents are requesting waivers, because it is the path of least resistance or because they don’t want the state having any medical information about their child? I always request a waiver for both reasons. According to the school and the State of California, my sons have never been treated by a physician or dentist, and have never been vaccinated. I know otherwise.

Ithaca and Madison are not alone here. There was a whooping cough (pertussis) outbreak in Colorado a couple years ago. And guess where it was? In the People’s Republic of Boulder, where enough of the parents had opted out that some of the lower schools had lost their herd immunity. Kids died as a result. The parents had played the odds, and lost. Yes, there are dangers to the vaccine, but the dangers of the disease are far, far worse. If they are the only ones to opt out, then their kids are probably statistically ahead of the game. But, if enough do, it can be really, really bad. And, these are the places where the parents are too smart to play by the rules, and so you have high opt out rates.

I should add that my kid is now in Boulder in graduate school, but spent the summer a couple years ago in Ithaca doing an NSF REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates). Got to play with an older particle accelerator, or something like that. And, one of their best friends from high school is still in Madison, now in graduate school. These big time college towns seem to have a lot of similarities, in terms of the types of people who want to work and live there.

But, that reminds me of a Law and Order SVU episode we recently rewatched. Lizzy McGuire (Hillary Duff) was playing a negligent mother whose baby died. Originally, they thought that it was her negligence that killed it. But, turned out that it was measles, caught at a local park, from a kid whose mother opted out of vaccinating her kid. The problem was that you shouldn’t vaccinate until a year or so old, and herd immunity tends to protect babies – unless enough parents of older children opt out. The criminal case lost, and I think that there was some self-help at the end of the show by someone in the family of the dead baby to avenge the death.

We need a poll to quantify anti-vax in percentiles.

Rep / Dem
young / old
occupy / tea party
no college / some college

The term “anti-vaxxer” is an emotional equivalent of homophobic, racist, sexist, etc. and is used with the same motive and purpose. The value of vaccines as part of a risk management protocol can be objectively evaluated without indulging in emotional appeals and political correctness.

What purpose does it serve to lower our standards and legitimize our opponents’ strategy and tactics?

Let me reiterate one more time.

1)There is NO measles epidemic in the US. 102 cases out of a population of 300 MILLION is statistically ZERO (0).

2) The number of voluntarily unvaccinated people, in this country, is about 5%. This is reflected in the statistics used by all the people criticizing the unvaccinated.

3) Vaccines are supposed to render the vaccinated immune from contracting the specific disease vaccinated against. So, theoretically, only those who are unvaccinated should contract the disease. People do not recieve vaccinations to protect the unvaccinated from contracting the disease, but to protect themselves from contracting the disease.

4)Vaccinated people can and do contract the measles virus.

I have pointed out before that all of this antivaxxer nonsense is nothing more than an attempt at distraction. The original story was seeming news because 75 cases of measles were tracked back to an initial exposure at a popular vacation site, Disneyland. Then some enterprising journo attempted to make a correlation between the areas where the infections occurred and the high number of alien residents [particularly illegal alien residents] living in those same areas. Immediately following this, media people begin jumping on the antivaxxer bandwagon, in a transparent attempt to divert attention from the supposed sorrelation between illegal aliens and these measles cases.

Now, there exists no published information to suggest that a high concentration of illegal aliens had anything to do with these measles cases. There is no published information to suggest that those afflicted were not vaccinated. In other words, we have a statistically insignificant local outbreak of a minor childhood disease with no evidence to suggest the involvement of any unvaccinated patients thst has been blown all out of proportion to benefit some ideological agendas.

    platypus in reply to Mac45. | February 9, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    Somebody gave your high quality comment a down arrow. I thought everyone on this list was supposed to be around Mensa level. Guess I was wrong.

      Ragspierre in reply to platypus. | February 9, 2015 at 4:33 pm

      I guess you are referring to me. My “down-twinkles” was predicated on the following…

      1. nobody has used “epidemic”. Not only not on this thread, but in the press as far as I can find;

      2. a statistical comparison of cases to the entire U.S. population is fallacious. The outbreaks should be compared to the local population for any statistical verity;

      3. I know of no authority that would assert that any vaccine would offer “immunity” to an individual unequivocally. They TEND to either prevent the disease they are designed for, or prevent as bad a case of the disease as would be experienced without the vaccine.

      4. Public health laws are, kind of by definition, seldom passed for the benefit of any individual. They protect (are intended to protect) “public health”. An exception would be PKU screenings for newborns.

      5. I don’t think my ability to acquire, synthesize, and make conclusions based on, information depends on anybody “publishing” stuff first.

        Well, let’s take your points in order, shall we?

        While the term epidemic has not been used, such terms as alarming outbreak infers that there is a significant increase in measles cases this year. Now, statistics show that there were four times as many measles cases last year and that the current number of cases is pretty much analogous to the number of cases in previous years. Even if more cases crop up this winter, the traditional measles season, there is no indication that we will see any significant increase.

        As to statistical comparison, the people writing antivaxxer articles are not limiting themselves to local geographic areas. Many articles have cited cases from California to Chicago to Boston. The bulk of them actually occurred due an infective agency in a single amusement park in California. When an enterprising journo noted the correlation between the high percentage of aliens, particularly illegal aliens, living in the area, articles inferring that the antivaxxer movement was responsible suddenly blossomed overnight.

        The CDC states that the immunization failure rate for a single dose of measles vaccine is 5%. They further state that the immunization rate following a full series of measles vaccinations is 1%. The whole point of vaccination is to provide immunization to a specific disease for the person vaccinated.

        Public health laws are fine. But, as with every other law they have to guard against penalizing the innocent. In the case of immunizations, one has to be very careful that the vaccine itself does not cause unwanted medical problems.

        On the last point, everyone can make guesses. However, for the guesses to be accurate, they depend upon accurate information or luck. People KNEW the world was flat and that sun moved across the “sky-bowl” covering it for centuries.

          Ragspierre in reply to Mac45. | February 10, 2015 at 1:47 pm

          The listener “infers”. The speaker “implies”.

          “The whole point of vaccination is to provide immunization to a specific disease for the person vaccinated.”

          But NO authority will assert that is accomplished in every individual. Only that immunity TENDS to be either enhanced or achieved.

          “In the case of immunizations, one has to be very careful that the vaccine itself does not cause unwanted medical problems.”

          That is a given. It is part of the science and law of public health. Duh. It is impossible to predict the very slight chance of any vaccine harming a specific individual.


          Should people have the ability to opt out of a vaccination program? Generally, yes. And generally they do.

          “Add to that the increase in the number of vaccines delivered to each child since the 1960s and there appears to be a possible correlation between the onset of autistic features and the delivery of vaccines.”

          There has been an immense increase in computers since 1960. There is a possible correlation between computers and autism, based on statistics.

          And you can fix your broken appliance by chanting “woooba-woooba”. I tested it.

    As an Australian I believe in the necessity of vaccination.

    As a young child I had German Measles and Chicken pox then at around 6 years old I had the Measles. I was one of the lucky ones because there were no complications.

    I remind everyone that with any of these childhood diseases there can be complicaations including encephelitis (known cases with the measles).

    We get vaccinated for tetanus, diptheria and whooping cough as well as the MMR and polio. All of these are necessary vaccinations and ditto for small pox and TB.

    All of these diseases, especially whooping cough and TB have been big killers, especially in the nineteenth century and up to the 1940s. One of my mother’s brothers was about 21 when he died from TB.

    We can prevent these diseases by being vaccinated. We can prevent the complications by being vaccinated. We can make sure that babies do not get these deadly diseases by being vaccinated.

    There is no link between autism and the MMR vaccination. Autism is most likely something that occurs in the womb or in the birth process. It is something that affects the brain. I have a step grandson with autism and I know other families where the grandchildren are autistic. From this small sample and based upon what I have been told about the issues the mothers had when carrying these children, I have a gut feeling that the brain damage if it can be described that way happens inside the womb.

      Mac45 in reply to Aussie. | February 10, 2015 at 1:00 pm

      Vaccination is important in a concentrated society. The problem that developed was that since the 1960s, there has been a significant increase in “autism” related disorders. And, a number of these cases have developed after multiple vaccinations to children who were exhibiting strong signs of normal development. These were not cases of congenital disorder. Add to that the increase in the number of vaccines delivered to each child since the 1960s and there appears to be a possible correlation between the onset of autistic features and the delivery of vaccines. Initially the culprit was thought to be mercury based preservatives in the vaccines. Such preservatives were removed and there was no significant decrease in late onset autism. Yet, the statistical correlation still remains. While it is possible that the delivery of multiple vaccines in a short period of time is responsible for the autistic symptoms, no other agency has been identified or even suspected. For this reason, many people are exercising caution with regard to the administration of vaccines.

      While some people opt for abstention from vaccination, many simply advocate for eliminating the large doses of multiple vaccines and spreading the vaccinations out over a longer period of time. Why this meets with such resistance from the medical community is a mystery.

If you think of it in evolutionary terms, it’s a self-correcting problem.

    Estragon in reply to rancidpoodle. | February 9, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    Heard a comedian talking about the lengths we now go to to make sure kids aren’t exposed to peanut butter in schools.

    “Face it: if you are allergic to peanuts, God wants you to die.”

My grandson attended the Ithaca Waldorf school until 2 years ago. I also have some experience with the Lehman school. Both are less destructive than the education by government bureaucracy you get at the regular public schools. I was very happy with the Waldorf school. I doubt they will be signing up for Common Core.

I never heard anything about vaccination avoidance from the parents at Waldorf.

I find it profoundly ironic that people from the side of the aisle which supports a total government takeover of our healthcare system don’t trust what the government says about vaccinations. Or is the right word “hypocritical”.

But I have a hypothesis that intelligence is inversely proportional to wisdom.

Sadly, there are some conservatives who are hot to give our government total authority to inject stuff into our children. There are better solutions than that available.

In the 1960’s, a woman contracted rubella. She was pregnant. She was counseled to abort her child. She was the 27th such mother. The doctors ripped the child from her womb, dissected it, and grew the rubella virus in its flesh. The result is the rubella vaccine, the “R” of the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) shot. , and see ref. 13.

Folks want to force me to inject the pus of a murdered child into my child. Murder one to save many? It’s so macabre. I cannot and will not partake in this murder.

The forced experimentation on children, both on the aborted children and on the living who receive foreign human DNA, is reminiscent of the eugenic Nationalist Socialists. That ugly episode in history resulted in the Nuremberg trials. The Nuremberg Code begins: “The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential.” Will we have to repeat this, have a Nuremberg II?

Anti-vaxxers are portrayed as conservatives in the press to hide the fact that such people are much more likely to be liberals.