Los Angeles health officials warned this week that students and staff at UCLA and Cal State L.A. may be at risk of catching measles, an announcement that has raised questions about universities’ susceptibility to disease outbreaks.
Not only can cramped dorm rooms and crowded classrooms be breeding grounds for contagion, but young adults in California are less likely to be vaccinated than other age groups, experts say. One of the people infected in L.A.’s measles outbreak is a UCLA student, university officials confirmed Tuesday.
People who are now in their early 20s are part of what’s known as the “Wakefield generation,” because they were infants in 1998 when British scientist Andrew Wakefield published a now discredited paper claiming that vaccines cause autism. Scared of the side effects of vaccination, many parents chose to opt out.
California implemented one of the country’s strictest immunization laws in 2016 to try to increase vaccination rates, but high school students and young adults who had already finished their schooling when the law took effect were not required to comply. That has left a large pool of young people especially vulnerable to infections, experts say.
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