Mandatory vaccinations for children are something that California lawmakers are currently seriously considering after the Disneyland measles outbreak earlier this year caused a media frenzy.
How would you feel if the place where you lived, regardless of your stance on vaccinating your own child – even if it is as simple as you wanting to wait until they are one year old as many parents wish – made it legally mandatory for you to vaccinate your newborn child?
The local newspaper Bakersfield now report:
California lawmakers heard impassioned pleas from parents and doctors Wednesday, during the first hearing on a bill that would require schoolchildren in the state to be vaccinated.
Under the proposal, parents would no longer be able to send unvaccinated kids to school with waivers citing religious or personal beliefs. Exemptions would be available only for children with health problems.
Supporters say the measure would increase the number of vaccinated young people, improving public health.
Ariel Loop told lawmakers such a plan could have helped prevent her child from contracting measles at Disneyland. “My infant shouldn’t have had to suffer. He shouldn’t, still months later, be having complications with his eyes,” she said. “I shouldn’t have had to fear for his life.”
Opponents, however, say vaccines can be as dangerous as the diseases they aim to fight and the bill would trample parental rights.
Karen Kain said her daughter died as a result of injuries from a mercury-tainted vaccine. “I stand here today before you to share my story so you can all see and hear what happens when vaccines go wrong,” she said. “Who gets to make the choice now of whose babies are more important? Because there is risk, there must be choice.”
The measure, SB277 from Sen. Richard Pan, was in the earliest stages of the legislative process. If it passes, California would join Mississippi and West Virginia as the only other states with such strict vaccine rules.
Similar efforts to tighten rules for vaccine exemptions were proposed in other states after a measles outbreak in December that started at Disneyland and sickened more than 100 people across the U.S. and in Mexico.
Opponents include Robert Kennedy Jr., the nephew of President John F. Kennedy and son of former U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who said at a Sacramento rally head of Wednesday’s Senate Health Committee hearing that he supports using vaccines and had all six of his children vaccinated, but believes the pharmaceutical industry profits immensely when governments make vaccines mandatory.
“The checks and balances in our democratic system that are supposed stand between corporate power and our little children have been removed,” Kennedy said. “And there’s only one barrier left and that’s the parents.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, California is among 20 states that allow for personal belief exemptions and 48 that allow for religious exemptions.
The push to limit exemptions was dealt two recent blows when bills in Oregon and Washington failed. Oregon’s measure would have restricted vaccine exemptions for only medical reasons while Washington would have removed the personal belief allowance for an exemption.
Public health officials believe an immunization rate of at least 90 percent is critical to minimizing the potential for a disease outbreak. California’s kindergarteners met that threshold at the start of this school year, according to state statistics: 2 percent were exempted because of their parents’ personal beliefs and another half a percent were exempted because of their parents’ religion.
Less than one-fifth of a percent of all California students — about 1,000 — had a medical vaccine exemption that would be preserved under the bill.
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