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Do some L.A. schools have vaccination rates as low as South Sudan?

FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2009 file photo, Nathan Compton grimaces as he gets an H1N1 vaccination from nurse Leslie Trotter, left, as his mother Madeline Rubenstein, right, comforts him at a H1N1-swine flu clinic in Sacramento, Calif.
FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2009 file photo, Nathan Compton grimaces as he gets an H1N1 vaccination from nurse Leslie Trotter, left, as his mother Madeline Rubenstein, right, comforts him at a H1N1-swine flu clinic in Sacramento, Calif. Rich Pedroncelli / AP Photo, file

TORONTO – Some Los Angeles schools have incredibly low vaccination rates, on par with immunization rates in some parts of Africa, according to a U.S. report.

Across North America, last winter was marred with cases of measles outbreaks, along with chicken pox, mumps and whooping cough – all preventable with vaccines.

Turns out, vaccination rates are surprisingly low in a stretch of L.A., including Malibu, Santa Monica, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, according to an investigation by The Hollywood Reporter.

READ MORE: Anti-vaccination movement means preventable diseases making a comeback

Instead, droves of parents are opting for personal belief exemptions – or PBEs – instead of getting their kids the MMVR (measles, mumps, varicella, rubella), and DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis) vaccines.

“Across California, thousands of children and babies are coughing so violently that their bodies convulse, uncontrollably wheezing and fighting to breathe for weeks,” the article suggests.

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It says that nearly 8,000 pertussis cases were reported in 2014 to the state’s department of health. Another 1,317 cases have already been documented in L.A. this year – more than any other California county.

Some schools had 87 to 88 per cent of their student body hand in personal belief exemptions – that means only 12 per cent of the school is vaccinated. In other cases, only 25 per cent of students are vaccinated.

In one preschool, 68 per cent of parents turned in PBEs – the report suggests this is on par with immunization rates in South Sudan and Chad, according to World Health Organization figures.

See the article and vaccination rates here.

READ MORE: How should health officials reverse an anti-vaxxer movement?

It’s been a tumultuous year for health officials and doctors sparring with a growing anti-vaccination movement. In the meantime, these preventable diseases have resurfaced in the Western world.

“When people say some of this might be related to low vaccine rates among people, that’s a huge understatement,” Dr. Gerald Evans, a Queen’s University medicine professor and director of infection control at Kingston General Hospital, told Global News last winter.

“It’s all because of vaccination rates falling. It’s 100 per cent blamed on the fact that people aren’t getting vaccinated,” Evans said.

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Anti-vaccination movements are widespread across the United States and even in Canada. Some theories suggest there is a link between autism and vaccinating children. These allegations have been debunked, though.

READ MORE: Jenny McCarthy backtracking on anti-vaccination, but is it too late?

Last April, Jenny McCarthy, the celebrity mom who has been outspoken about linking vaccines to autism backtracked on her anti-vaccination stance.

In an op-ed published in the Chicago Sun Times, McCarthy said that she’s “pro-vaccine.” It’s just that she was misbranded and misunderstood, she suggests.

“I believe in the importance of a vaccine program and I believe parents have the right to choose one poke per visit. I’ve never told anyone to not vaccinate,” McCarthy said.

Other celebrities – Alicia Silverstone, for example – have openly talked about anti-vaccination stance.

READ MORE: ‘Clueless’ actress Alicia Silverstone joins anti-vaxxer movement

Toronto Public Health vaccination rates for every school in Toronto – obtained exclusively by Global News under the Freedom of Information Act – suggests a significant disparity in vaccination uptake across the city. But many schools are well below the herd immunity rate of 95 per cent – the level at which, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, there are enough people immunized to protect everyone.

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One school had vaccination rates as low as 43 per cent.

READ MORE: Which Toronto schools have the lowest measles vaccination rates?

Interactive: Explore the map to see which Toronto schools are above and below the 95 per cent herd immunity level for measles vaccination rates. Enter an address or postal code in the search box, double-click to zoom and click and drag to move around. Click a school for details.

Measles, mumps, rubella vaccination rates for Toronto schools, 2012 »

Measles, mumps, rubella vaccination rates for Toronto schools, 2012

“It’s an issue and we’ve been struggling with it,” said Dr. Barbara Yaffe, associate medical officer of health and director of the communicable diseases program at Toronto Public Health.

“It troubles us because we want everybody to be immunized and protected as best as possible.”

Last fall, U.S. researchers at Emory University said that parents who refused to vaccinate their kids was what ultimately caused a 2010 whooping cough epidemic that swept through California. It was one of the worst cases in the west coast state since 1947, with some 10,000 illnesses and 10 deaths.

READ MORE: What caused a whooping cough epidemic? Scientists blame parents

It was clusters of families that decided against vaccinating their kids that was most likely what caused the outbreak, the researchers suggested.

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carmen.chai@globalnews.ca