Vaccination-exemption law makes its way through the California legislature

June 26, 2015 • 2:30 pm

There’s more good news today (actually, from yesterday): according to multiple sources, including the Los Angeles Times, the California Assembly has approved a tough pro-vaccination law, one that eliminates all religious and philosophical exemptions from immunization for kids who want to attend public school. The state senate has passed its own version, but they’re similar and the differences are expected to be resolved before the bill goes to the governor for his signature. Unfortunately, that governor is Jerry Brown.

As you may know, 48 of our 50 US states allow religious exemptions from vaccinations (the exceptions are, surprisingly, West Virginia and Mississippi), while 20 allow “philosophical” or “personal belief exemption. (That shows that religious convictions are regarded as more serious than philosophical ones.) Here’s a map of states with exemptions:ExImmunMap15The new California bill also prohibits both philosophical and religious exemptions.

As the L. A. Times reports:

The measure, among the most controversial taken up by the Legislature this year, would require more children who enter day care and school to be vaccinated against diseases including measles and whooping cough.

Those with medical conditions such as allergies and immune-system deficiencies, confirmed by a physician, would be excused from immunization. And parents could still decline to vaccinate children who attend private home-based schools or public independent studies off campus.

It is unclear whether Gov. Jerry Brown will sign the measure, which grew out of concern about low vaccination rates in some communities and an outbreak of measles at Disneyland that ultimately infected more than 150 people.

“The governor believes that vaccinations are profoundly important and a major public health benefit, and any bill that reaches his desk will be closely considered,” Evan Westrup, the governor’s spokesman, said Thursday.

Well, Governor Moonbeam damn well better sign the law; there’s no excuse for him vetoing it. As I wrote earlier this month in the month in The New Republic, there’s simply no valid excuse—save medical conditions like immunodeficiency—to allow unvaccinated children to mingle with others in public schools. It reduces herd immunity and is endangers public health. We’ve already seen epidemics produced by religious exemptions to vaccination. But in this case, fact must trump faith faith: public safety overrides religion, just as if religious people sought exemptions from having to possess a license to drive a car.

Nevertheless, it was a tough battle, waged largely against those who are ignorant about the safety of vaccinations:

Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), a pediatrician and an author of the bill, has received death threats. And opponents of the proposal have filed papers with the state to initiate the process of recalling Pan and Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel), a vocal supporter, from office.

Hundreds of parents besieged the Capitol during a series of legislative hearings to oppose the bill in the belief that vaccines are unsafe, that the proposal would violate their privacy rights and that they alone — not the state — should choose whether to vaccinate their children.

This is the result when faith is allowed to displace science:

Dr. Catherine Sonquist Forest, medical director of the Stanford Health Care clinic in Los Altos, said immunizing more people is essential to protect babies too young to receive vaccines.

“This isn’t a question of personal choice,” Forest said. “This is an obligation to society.”

Forest is caring for a 4-year-old boy dying of a rare complication of measles that infected his brain. He was infected when he was 5 months old and too young to be vaccinated.

One child dead because of superstition is one too many.

15 thoughts on “Vaccination-exemption law makes its way through the California legislature

  1. Here, in Ontario, we have the same religious fundamentalists who are protesting an updated sex-ed curriculum. One that replaces an antiquated syllabus that has the potential to save lives. Go figure!! On the bright side, the American supreme court has made same sex marriage legal in all states by a margin of 5 to 4. Which makes me wonder about the four who voted against the bill!!

  2. I saw an article yesterday by Erin Brokovich opposing this law, going on about parents’ rights. Selfish #*@%€! What about the right of children not to suffer and die because their parents don’t have the ability to think critically? Or the other children being put at risk because of low herd immunity?

    I wonder if it’s possible to prosecute the leaders of anti-vax groups, Christian Scientists, and all the others who spread such blatant lies as they do for fraud? They are dangerous and should be made responsible for the harm they cause.

    1. I’m not sure of the , but I believe when we’ve talked about certain areas of harmful speech – fraud, slander, libel – but in American law at least there has to be evidence the person not only knows his or her statements are false, but also that s/he made them with malicious intent.

      So a crackpot is lawsuit-proof when s/he believes dangerous nonsense and (however wrong s/he may be) says or publishes said nonsense thinking it’s in others’ best interest to do so.

      People who know better can argue against the crackpots, though! And also mock and ridicule the crackpots, and ban them from the grownups’ table at holiday meals.

    2. Don’t invite them to dinner; that’s a good start as ManOutOfTime alludes.

      In my community, when I get an opportunity, I advertise the names of people I know not to vaccinate their children. Just pointing it out helps shovel a little rational disrespect to the anti-vaxers; hopefully shaming them to re-think their decision.

  3. A guy commenting on that L.A. Times article tried to tell me that polio was eradicated in the U.S. not by vaccine but by people washing their hands. I mean hand washing is important and all but it just sounded ridiculous to me.

  4. According the NYT, my daughter’s kindergarten has a 96% vaccination rate with a 2% rate of “person belief exemption.” Which means out of 159 kids in five classrooms, there are 6-7 kids not vaccinated, 3-4 of whom have avowed kooks (the official term for anti-vaxxers) for parents.

    Given the earthy-crunchy demographic of my ‘hood, I might have guessed there were more.

    If the governor signs this bill, June, 2015 will go down as a pretty spectacular month in my book. I’m not looking forward to the backlash from the haters and crazies, but I plan to enjoy the two steps forward right up until the one step back.

  5. In California where there will soon be 40 million humans, they need every vaccination they can get.

  6. He’s no longer Gov. Moonbeam, that was so ’70s.

    He is rational and informed.

    I for one expect him to sign the bill without any special signing messages.

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