A measles outbreak that began in Anaheim’s Disneyland theme park last December has sparked new legislation in California that requires children to receive a full set of vaccinations prior to attending school. The state’s legislators noted that the measles epidemic spread to 14 states and sickened 107 people.
Personal Belief Exemption
California is among 19 states that offer what is called a personal belief exemption to citizens for vaccinations and other laws dealing with public health. These people may object on religious grounds or simply because they do not have faith in the safety of the vaccines. In areas where numerous parents took the exemption, the measles spread more quickly, and the cases were more severe.
Two state senators, Ben Allen and Dr. Richard Pan, believe the personal belief exemption should be completely eliminated. Pan, who practices as a pediatrician, said that more people claim the exemption each year, which is putting the general population at risk. He believes legislation should be enacted before someone dies due to their parents’ unwillingness to have their children vaccinated.
California’s belief exemption has been in place since the 1960s. However many more parents have been claiming it during the last 10 years. Some California schools have fewer students who have been vaccinated than those who have not.
The new law, if it is passed, would require all children to become fully vaccinated before they can attend school. Dr. Pan said that the majority of California parents are in favor of such legislation.
One law professor at San Francisco’s University of California-Hastings campus thinks the rules should be modified. Dorit Reiss worries, however, that the new bill is too restrictive. She says that some parents simply aren’t convinced that vaccinations are safe for their children. They may search for a way to get around the law.
Reiss said that parents could easily find a physician who would be willing to provide false written documentation that a child has been vaccinated. Schools count on accurate inoculation data so that they can send at-risk students home in the event of an outbreak at school.
Other anxious parents could try to detoxify their kids after they receive their vaccination by dosing them with chelating agents, even though children have died as a result of chelation. Some parents might decide to withdraw their children from school entirely in favor of homeschooling them.
It’s likely that the bill will encounter opposition from citizens who are against vaccinating their children. Pan, Allen and Governor Jerry Brown are democrats and both houses of the California Legislature are democratic. However, it is unclear if the bill will gain enough support to be passed.
Two other California senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, contacted California Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley to request a reconsideration of the personal belief exemption.
Their letter stated that a tiny segment of students have medical conditions that prevent them from receiving vaccinations, but people who use public places, such as schools, must be protected. Parents who do not vaccinate their children put their family and other members of the community who refuse to vaccinate at risk.
Since 2013, parents who wanted the exemption have been required to confer with a licensed health care provider regarding the dangers of refusing vaccinations. This led to a 20 percent decline in personal belief exemptions among students enrolled in schools.
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