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:The new California bill also prohibits both philosophical and religious exemptions.
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.