Constitutionality of mandatory vaccinations – Robert F Kennedy Jr. is wrong

If you’re a regular reader of this blog or are just generally aware of current issues regarding vaccinations, you know that Governor Jerry Brown of California signed SB 277 into law. The law removes so-called “personal belief exemptions” for vaccinating children before they enter schools.

Personal belief exemptions were used (and frequently abused) by parents in California to exempt their children from vaccinations using religious beliefs (hardly any mainstream religion is opposed to vaccinations) or the “I don’t like vaccines” belief statement. So many California children were not fully vaccinated, especially when they were clustered in certain areas of the state, lead to several outbreaks of measles, whooping cough, and other infectious diseases.

Thus, the California Senate, led by Senator and Dr. Richard Pan, voted for SB 277, which sailed through the California Senate and Assembly, subsequently becoming law. Its sole purpose was to protect the children of California, the country’s most populous and wealthiest state, from ravages of diseases that were once on the verge of extinction.

Despite the overwhelming support from the legislature and citizens of the state, some groups remain steadfastly opposed. One trope being pushed is doubts about the constitutionality of mandatory vaccinations for children.

Even a group of lawyers wrote a letter to the California legislature, “Statement of Lawyers Opposed to California SB 277,” that tries to deny the constitutionality of mandatory vaccinations for children. The letter concludes:

…we strongly urge you to decline the temptation to tamper with California’s legislative scheme that works to achieve public health objectives while protecting the rights of individuals to make conscientious medical decisions regarding their own health.

Please take the responsible course by rejecting SB 277 and avoiding the legal, educational, and health decision-making chaos that would follow from enactment of this legislation.

The letter is signed by over 150 attorneys but appeared to be written by one Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, a famous attorney with a long history of playing “fast and loose” with the science regarding vaccines. Last month, this blog’s good friend, Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, who spends most of her time (as far as I can tell) writing about legal issues with vaccines, replied to Kennedy’s letter with real science, real constitutional law, and real facts.

Continue reading “Constitutionality of mandatory vaccinations – Robert F Kennedy Jr. is wrong”

Update: Gov. Brown signs California vaccine exemption bill

The California vaccine exemption bill – SB 277, which essentially eliminates all vaccine personal belief exemptions for children to be vaccines prior to attending schools in the state – was signed into law today by Governor Jerry Brown (D).

The SB 277 vaccine exemption bill was sponsored by California Senator Richard Pan MD and by Ben Allen, of Santa Monica. The bill was introduced after a outbreak of measles in December at Disneyland sickened 136 Californians. It passed quickly through both houses of the California Legislature.

The law applies to students attending any public or private school in the state, so parents who choose not to vaccinate children for non-medical reasons would need to make other arrangements for their child’s education. Now, only valid medical exemptions, such as known allergies and other medical conditions, approved by a physician, will be allowed an exemption to vaccination.

Governor Brown also reiterated, while signing the bill, that “while requiring that school children be vaccinated, the law explicitly provides an exception when a physician believes that circumstances – in the judgment and sound discretion of the physician – so warrant.”

There is some evidence that the medical exemption has been abused by parents who do not want their children vaccinated with cooperation of like minded physicians. This does worry me, since there are pediatricians who “advertise” their services in signing these forms.

Notwithstanding my concern, this makes California one of the three toughest states for vaccinations, along with Mississippi and West Virginia. And that is good news indeed.

 

Update: SB 277 vaccine bill sent to Gov. Brown

he California SB 277 vaccine bill, which essentially eliminates all vaccine personal belief exemptions for children in schools in the state, has passed it’s last hurdle in the California legislature and has been sent to Governor Jerry Brown for his signature.

The SB 277 vaccine bill was sponsored by California Senator Richard Pan MD 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.

This makes California one of the three toughest states for vaccinations, along with Mississippi and West Virginia. Now, only valid medical exemptions, such as known allergies and other medical conditions, will be allowed an exemption to vaccination. Continue reading “Update: SB 277 vaccine bill sent to Gov. Brown”

SB 277 vaccine bill sails through California legislature

I’m a little late with this story, for no other reason than I was distracted by all the good news this week–the Supreme Court rulings on the legality of Obamacare and the removal of all state laws that prevent the right of all citizens to marry.

As I’ve written before, the California SB 277 vaccine bill, which essentially eliminates all vaccine personal belief exemptions for children in schools in the state, continues to get overwhelming support from the legislature, and passed through one more step to becoming law.

According to several news reports, Senate Bill 277, which mandates vaccinations for all schoolchildren regardless of their parents’ personal or religious beliefs about vaccines and vaccinations, passed on a 46-to-31 vote in the state Assembly after an hourlong debate. The outcome of the vote was expected.

On Monday, 29 June, there is a Pro-Forma vote in the California Senate (to approve minor language changes in the Assembly version), and there is little doubt that it will pass there.

Once that happens, the bill will be sent to Governor Jerry Brown, who has, for unknown reasons, showed some openness vaccine exemptions. Two years ago he essentially gutted a bad law that made vaccine exemptions a bit harder to obtain by adding this language to his signing bill:

This bill is about explaining the value of vaccinations – both the benefits and risks – for an individual child and the community. Whether these are simple “information exchanges” or more detailed discussions, they will be valuable even if a parent chooses not to vaccinate.

I am signing AB 2109 and am directing the Department of Public Health to oversee this policy so parents are not overly burdened by its implementation. Additionally, I will direct the department to allow for a separate religious exemption on the form. In this way, people whose religious beliefs preclude vaccinations will not be required to seek a health care practitioner’s signature.

So, we’ll see if he realizes he’s flying against the wind here, and joining some of the right wing anti-vaccination types.
Continue reading “SB 277 vaccine bill sails through California legislature”

Abuse of California’s vaccine personal belief exemptions

If you have been following the news, or even this blog, you probably are aware of SB 277, a bill sailing through the California legislature which, upon enactment, will essentially eliminate the California vaccine personal belief exemptions (PBE) to vaccinations of children entering in public schools or day care centers.

One of the favorite tools of the vaccine deniers is a personal belief exemption that allows them to essentially refuse to vaccinate one’s child based something other than a valid medical contraindication to vaccinate a particular child. These exemptions, at least in California, can be for almost anything, including the nonsense “religious exemption.” Ironically, it’s difficult to find a real mainstream or even non-mainstream religion that is opposed to vaccinations.

Court case after court case has supported vaccination of children and has generally rejected many attempts at using religious exemptions to refuse vaccinations. So California, which has experienced some measles outbreaks because of unvaccinated children, has decided to get tougher on vaccinating their children, and eliminate California.

Continue reading “Abuse of California’s vaccine personal belief exemptions”

California’s vaccine exemption laws – clustering effects

All 50 US states (along with several territories and DC) require mandatory vaccination for children entering public (and frequently, private) schools. This system has essentially ended most vaccine preventable diseases in the USA, including measles, polio, chickenpox, and many others.

Broad vaccination is considered one of the 10 greatest achievements in public health. Vaccines should probably be number 1 on the list. Overall, the immunization mandate has established a strong herd effect, which has generally ended transmission of these diseases.

Even though vaccinating children before they enter school is mandatory, there are ways around it, if you choose. Every state allows medical exemptions, which is based on a proven risk for a child to not be vaccinated with one or more vaccines. For example, some vaccines are produced in chicken eggs, and a tiny percentage of children are allergic. Medical exemptions are absolutely critical to the well being of the child, and no pro-science (pro-vaccine) writer or researcher would be opposed to those types of exemptions.

Furthermore, most states have vaccine exemption laws which allows personal belief exemptions (PBE). These PBEs fall into one of two groups–religious exemptions, that is, the parent “claims” that their religion is opposed to vaccines; or personal exemptions, which are simply based on the fact that the parents are opposed to vaccination for whatever reason that hits their brain after 20 minutes of Googling “facts.”

Most states allow both types of exemptions, some only allow religious exemptions, and one state, Mississippi, allows only medical exemptions. As a progressive, there is little positive I can say about Mississippi, but this is a major positive. So congrats Mississippi for caring about children, at least in this one important way. Continue reading “California’s vaccine exemption laws – clustering effects”

California SB 277 vaccine exemption bill–going strong

The California SB 277 vaccine exemption legislation, which essentially eliminates all vaccine personal belief exemptions for children in schools in the state, continues to get overwhelming support from the legislature, and passed through one more step to becoming law.

According to several news reports, the California Assembly’s Health Committee approved the legislation in committee, by a 12-6 positive vote (with one exemption), late on 9 June 2015. The bill will now be sent to the full Assembly for a final vote, then back to the California Senate for final approval, and if both steps are successful, the bill will be sent to Governor Jerry Brown for signing into law. Continue reading “California SB 277 vaccine exemption bill–going strong”