California will soon be forcing most children to get vaccinated against measles, whooping-cough, mumps and other infectious diseases – or do not attend school. Thursday, the California State Assembly passed mandatory vaccinations requirements measures that, if signed by the governor, would be one of the toughest in the U.S.
The bill essentially ends exemptions from state vaccination requirements for “personal beliefs” or religious reasons. Every child would be forced to get the vaccines unless a doctor certifies that there is a qualifying medical reason precluding it. (Those reasons include serious medical conditions like immune-system deficiencies, undergoing chemotherapy or severe allergies.)
Parents could still decide to forego the vaccinations for their children. However, their offspring will no be allowed to by in day care or schools in the state. That would like them to home schooling, attending private home-based or online schools or participating in public independent studies programs held off campus.
The controversial measure was one of the most acrimoniously debated ones in public hearings held by the legislature. It moves California from being one of the most laissez-faire ones regarding vaccinations to one of the toughest. More than 30 states already do not allow exemptions for parental personal beliefs, so California is playing catch-up there. (According to the Los Angeles Times, over 13,500 kindergarten students in the state have waivers based on parental beliefs.) But the added language precluding religious exemptions would make the state only the third in the U.S. to bar religious excuses.
The push to tighten vaccination requirements in California arose from an outbreak of measles earlier this year that stemmed from someone contagious going to Disneyland and exposing hundreds to the preventable but potentially deadly disease. More than 130 cases, including some that infected children too young to be vaccinated, could be directly attributed to the Disneyland outing.
The amusement park measles outbreak was not the only sign that the lack of vaccinations in some areas was affecting public health. There was a whooping-cough outbreak and a resurgence of the mumps (which then spread within the National Hockey League). All of these infectious diseases were largely dormant in California for decades, but the anti-vaccination trend, fueled by beliefs that there are dangerous side effects to the shots, allowed them to re-emerge
“We’ve seen with this recent epidemic that rates of immunization are low enough that epidemics can be spread now,” noted Dr. Luther Cobb, president of the California Medical Assn. “The reasons for failing to immunize people … are based on unscientific and untrue objections, and it’s just a good public-health measure.”
According to some reports, there are parts of California were approximately half of the students in local schools did not get the basic vaccinations, such as the one against measles. Parents in many of the public hearings claimed the bill impinges on “parental rights,” but health officials emphasize that the public health and safety needs require the measure.
One Assemblywoman from San Diego – Lorena Gonzalez – commented that she, too, is a mother concerned about her children’s health and she respects the right for families to make medical decisions on their own. “However, none of us has the right to endanger others,” Gonzalez noted. She pointed out that the legislation was designed to strike “the right balance of ensuring informed, thoughtful medical decisions between a family and their doctor and the rights of all our school children to attend school without fear of contracting a potentially fatal, vaccine-preventable disease.”
The Assembly passed the bill on Thursday by a margin of 46-31. The state’s Senate had already passed the measure, but needs to vote on changes made on the Assembly side before it formally goes to Governor Jerry Brown to sign. If Brown does sign the legislation, California’s new requirements for mandatory vaccinations would be one of toughest in U.S.
Written and edited by Dyanne Weiss
Los Angeles Times: California Assembly approves one of the toughest mandatory vaccination laws in the nation
Daily Mail: California’s war on the anti-vaxxers: State lawmakers approve tough new laws to force children to get their jags
Los Angeles Daily News: Bill requiring vaccinations for almost all schoolchildren is approved by Assembly