An important healthcare bill that abolishes “personal belief exemptions” for vaccinations was overwhelmingly approved by the California Senate on May 14 2015.
The measure, SB 277 was sponsored by California Senator Richard Pan MD, who was a target of violent threats by the antivaccine cult because of his support of this healthcare bill, and by Ben Allen, of Santa Monica. The bill was introduced after a outbreak of measles in December at Disneyland sickened 136 Californians, and it passed 25-10 after the two senators agreed earlier to compromises aimed at easing its passage.
The proposed California SB 277 vaccine exemption law would require children to be vaccinated before entering kindergarten. Medical exemptions are permitted, but exemptions based on personal and religious objections are not. That would make California one of only three states — the others are Mississippi and West Virginia — that doesn’t allow personal or religious exemptions to vaccine laws.
The bill will now go to the California State Assembly, where further hearings will be required. If it passes the Assembly, Governor Jerry Brown would have to sign or veto the new law. At each step, we can expect further
Why SB 277 is important
Professor Dorit Rubinstein Reiss recently wrote an article here about SB 277:
The more salient bill, at least so far, is California SB 277 vaccine legislation, which abolishes the personal belief exemption. The bill would leave intact the medical exemption: it makes no changes to it. But it would mean that if passed as written, parents would not be able to send children to, public and private, or daycares, also public and private, without the required immunizations unless they are medically exempt.
Contrary to anti-vaccine claims, the bill does not remove informed consent and is not equivalent to forcing vaccines on parents. A doctor is still not allowed to vaccinate without parental consent or a court order. But a parent will not be able to impose on the other children in a daycare or school the risk they choose for their own child by denying her vaccines.
Under current law, even with the requirement to get a health provider’s signature that a parent had the risks and benefits of immunization explained, getting an exemption is very, very easy. A parent needs to fill a form, get a doctor, nurse, or qualified naturopath to sign that they got an explanation about risks and benefits (with or without actually giving that explanation) and get the exemption. Or check the religious exemption box on the form and get the exemption.
Some schools have very, very high exemption rates.
There is abundant evidence that higher exemption rates increase the risk of outbreaks (pdf). Those exemption rates directly put children at risk of disease. Yes, the children left unvaccinated are at higher risk. But they can infect the too young (for example in daycares), children with medical problems that prevent vaccinating, other unvaccinated children, or the few that suffer vaccine failure. By reducing herd immunity, they make the school a hotspot for outbreaks – decreasing its safety for everyone. They violate the rights of other parents to choose a disease-free, safe school for their children, and the right of children that are not theirs to health.
There’s not really a good way around it. Easy to get exemptions make schools more disease vulnerable and less safe. SB277 would make schools and daycares safer for the children in them – children of the majority that supports vaccinating, following the data and expert opinion.
Good news for the children of California. Very good news.
- Glanz JM, Newcomer SR, Narwaney KJ, Hambidge SJ, Daley MF, Wagner NM, McClure DL, Xu S, Rowhani-Rahbar A, Lee GM, Nelson JC, Donahue JG, Naleway AL, Nordin JD, Lugg MM, Weintraub ES. A population-based cohort study of undervaccination in 8 managed care organizations across the United States. JAMA Pediatr. 2013 Mar 1;167(3):274-81. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.502. PubMed PMID: 23338829.
- Glanz JM, McClure DL, Magid DJ, Daley MF, France EK, Salmon DA, Hambidge SJ. Parental refusal of pertussis vaccination is associated with an increased risk of pertussis infection in children. Pediatrics. 2009 Jun;123(6):1446-51. doi: 10.1542/peds.2008-2150. PubMed PMID: 19482753.