Just this past week, California’s Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill to execute one of the strictest school vaccination laws in the country. This bill was proposed after an outbreak of measles at Disneyland that affected over 100 people last year. The bill was initially proposed to try to raise rates of immunization in one of the under-vaccinated areas in the state.
Herd immunity is a percentage at which enough people are vaccinated to protect the entire community
At first glance, California’s overall rate of immunization appears to be enough to maintain herd immunity, but recently, there has been a decline in the number of immunizations in suburban areas in the past decades. Herd immunity is a percentage at which enough people are vaccinated to protect the entire community. Herd immunity for measles is around 92-94 percent. Some schools in the state have rates as low as 50 percent.
According to Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, interim health officer for Los Angeles County, the closer we get to immunizing everyone, the less of those diseases we see. Until recently, many preventable diseases such as whooping cough and mumps were thought to have been eliminated due to widespread vaccination. The United States even declared measles to be eradicated from the country in 2000.
However, as immunization rates have dipped recently due to fear of claims that vaccinations have been linked to autism, there have been flare-ups of measles.
California has now joined West Virginia and Mississippi as being the only states without a personal belief exemption from vaccination
All fifty states currently require children beginning school to be immunized. About twenty states allow exemptions based on personal beliefs. California has now joined West Virginia and Mississippi as being the only states without a personal belief exemption from vaccination.
Effective beginning the 2016-2017 school year on July 1, 2016, California’s new law will become effective, affecting almost 80,000 schoolchildren who claim the religious and personal-belief exceptions. This means that almost all children who are not vaccinated must be homeschooled or must enroll in an independent study program off school grounds.
Children whose parents refuse to obtain vaccinations for them based on a personal-belief exemption will not be granted these exemptions. Before this law, students who claimed a personal-belief exemption were granted a medical exemption. Now, everyone except children with serious health issues, such as immune system deficiencies, must be fully vaccinated by kindergarten and seventh grade. Interestingly enough, the law applies to public schools, private schools, and daycares.
“[T]he science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases…”
Proponents of the law believe that it is a vital public health and safety measure, fearing that the outbreak at Disneyland is a small glimpse of what is yet to come if immunization rates do not go up.
Governor Jerry Brown expressed his full support, saying, “[t]he science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases. While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.”
However, not everyone has been as supportive. An advocacy group called Our Kids Our Choice is rallying against the bill, exploring every possible option from litigation to taking the question to the voters during a referendum.
One senator has even stated that backlash to the bill has been so strong that he actually had to briefly close his office for fear of his staff’s safety.
Jim Carrey, a Hollywood actor, is an activist on this issue. He believes that there is a link between vaccines and autism. He even went on to say that he believes Gov. Jerry Brown is a “corporate fascist” after he signed the bill into law. Many people across the country like Jim Carrey believe that ingredients such as mercury and thimerosol in the vaccines carry a huge risk to children. However, the Center for Disease Control maintains that there is no link between vaccines and autism and no link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism.
“[There] is no public health emergency in California or any other state that justifies giving up our human and civil rights…”
After the passage of the California law on June 29, 2015, the National Vaccine Information Center (“NVIC”) has urged citizens in every state to protect the right to informed consent to medical risk taking in America. They argue that the new law violates the California Constitution, denying children the right to a school education unless they have all the vaccine doses recommended by the federal government or a doctor grants a medical vaccine exemption.
NVIC co-founder and president Barbara Loe Fisher says, “Americans should not be threatened and forced to give up a human right in order to exercise a civil right. There is no public health emergency in California or any other state that justifies giving up our human and civil rights. These kinds of oppressive laws are a prescription for tyranny and will lead to fear and distrust of government health officials and medical doctors.”
Thousands of Californians opposing the bill have testified in public hearings held in various Senate and Assembly committees. There were no hearings in Appropriations committees. There was also no financial analysis to determine the cost the state will face if it decides to take legal action against parents who refuse to comply or who sue the state for denying their children access to a school education.
The legislation does not actually define what legal sanctions parents may face …
The legislation does not actually define what legal sanctions parents may face if they decline to give their children the vaccines mandated under the law but are also financially or otherwise unable to homeschool their children.
Further, the number of vaccinations required is steadily increasing. From 1983 to 2015, the number of vaccines required has tripled to 69 doses of 16 vaccines. Not to mention, pharmaceutical companies and federal health agencies continue to develop hundreds of new vaccines. This law will actually allow state health officials to add even more vaccines to the list without having to put the legislature to a vote.
It will be interesting to see how the problems with the law will play out. There will very likely be many parents and caregivers willing to file lawsuits against the state. It will also be interesting to see what sanctions are given to parents who are unable to homeschool their children but who also refuse to vaccinate their children. Be on the lookout to see what happens in California!