Written by Anyi Cheng
Following the measles outbreak of early 2015, California Senators Richard Pan and Ben Allen proposed a bill on Feb. 4 aiming to tighten the state’s vaccination requirements. According to a bill passed in 2012, California’s law allows exemption from vaccination for medical, religious and personal belief reasons. The new legislation proposes an elimination of this policy. It mandates the vaccination of all children except those with specific medical issues and will require schools to publish a record of how many students are vaccinated.
“As a pediatrician, I’ve been worried about the anti-vaccination trend for a long time,” Pan said in a written statement. “We need to take steps to keep our schools safe and our students healthy.”
The bill has mainly received a positive response from other Californian senators and representatives. “A parent’s decision to ignore science and medical facts puts other children at risk. We as a state can’t condone that,” Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez said.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, the current measles epidemic can be traced back to Disneyland in Los Angeles, California. It is one of the worst outbreaks since measles was declared eliminated in 2000 and has spread to children across several different states with 113 confirmed cases in California alone. The CDC reports that the majority of those affected were not vaccinated.
In California, applying for vaccination exemption requires parents to talk with their child’s doctor, write an affidavit requesting an exemption, fill out an application form and submit to their child’s school a record of which vaccinations the child has already received. However, an unvaccinated child may be prevented from attending class during an outbreak of a disease for which they are not vaccinated.
Those who oppose the bill and endorse the personal exemption belief do so for a variety of reasons. Many parents who refuse to vaccinate their children believe that autism and vaccination are linked although there are no credible studies have been published on the subject. Others believe that injecting several viruses and harmful bacteria into an infant’s potential frail immune system can easily lead to dangerous side effects. Still others are adamant that vaccines contain harmful ingredients such as mercury or aluminum.