Though less than a dozen school children will be slain by a gun in any given year, American society is mobilized with marches and media against firearms. Meanwhile, on average 55,000 Americans will die from the flu, which has a vaccine. In states like California, anti-vaccine sentiment ran so high on the coast that the state had to pass a law forcing parents to comply or not have their kids enrolled. Some schools in Marin county had fewer than 30 percent of children vaccinated. Philosophical exemptions just by families in the wealthiest parts of California exceeded the number of religious exemptions nationwide - by 1000 percent.

The reason is human preoccupation with the "precautionary principle" - if an English doctor claimed vaccines causes autism (without revealing he was selling a competitor) it is better to be safe than sorry. Let poor kids provide herd immunity for the rich. 

But it isn't all terrible parenting, according to a new analysis in Canadian Medical Association Journal, drug scandals, medical training practices, and a lack of political priority that started in the 1960s could be responsible for anti-vaccine beliefs we see today. Heather MacDougall, history professor at Waterloo and Laurence Monnais of Université de Montréal, analyzed the contested adoption of the measles vaccine over three decades up to 1998, just before the infamous Andrew Wakefield publication that falsely linked the MMR vaccination to autism.

They found that the vaccine hesitancy phenomenon started before the 1990s, and it was due to scandals, like the European thalidomide disaster of 1962, along with the emergence of new styles of parenting, second-wave feminism, and the popularization of alternative medicine. 
 Measles outbreaks in the 1970s and 1980s corresponded with a shift to individual rather than collective responsibility for personal health and health promotion, according to the study. By the 1990s, the national and international focus on children's rights and child health made young parents more willing to question whether their child would benefit from vaccination.

The division of powers regarding healthcare have created a systemic disadvantage for the consensus needed to develop a consistent national immunization program. In the United States, we even give supplements, naturopathy and other "alternatives" to real medicine quasi-legitimacy by giving them federal funding under the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, which claims to study but really shields what used to be called folk medicine, and then alternative medicine, and then complementary medicine and is now relabeled again as integrative medicine.

Anti-vaccine people go crazy over a law that encourages a vaccine.