Yesterday California Governor Jerry Brown signed a childhood vaccination bill into law along with a letter stating, “The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases. While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.” The hash-tagged, much discussed bill (#SB277) was co-authored and proposed to lawmakers by Dr Richard Pan, a pediatrician and CA state senator in Sacramento. The law, SB 277, establishes one of the toughest mandatory vaccination requirements in the nation for school children and those in child-care centers. As imagined, the process of getting the bill into law was not for the faint of heart. Riding on realities of necessary community immunity unveiled during the 2014-2015 Disney measles outbreak, the idea of mandating vaccines for public health still ignited evocative and divisive bullying campaigns on social media.
We can’t forget that these outbreaks are dangerous (over 20 people were hospitalized for measles during the Disney outbreak and 5 children in Chicago got measles while at daycare). Remember that infants are more vulnerable to getting measles and they’re also at greater risk to die from it.
Testimony before the state senate was reported to be passionate, evocative, and compelling from both sides. The law passed the senate by a 24 – 14 vote and went to the governor. By signing the bill into law yesterday, Governor Brown acknowledges a tenet in public health and vaccination: vaccines are for individuals, yes, but they also serve to protect others — those especially vulnerable and not.
California now joins two select states (Mississippi and West Virginia) mandating shots for children and disallowing parents from opting-out of vaccinations recommended by the schools based on religious or other personal beliefs. Medical exemptions are still allowed for children when necessary.
Mandating vaccines pushes and pulls on the balance of public health and personal liberties so emotional responses make so much sense to me. Yet these efforts to improve public health and community protection place a value on vaccines that is evidence-based. We know immunization benefits extend past the person who receives them. Immunizations protect individuals, those vulnerable, and our communities at large all at once. This law in California (and Mississippi and West Virginia) acknowledge that.
What Does This Mean For Children In California?
The new California law will require children who enter day care and school to be vaccinated against highly infectious diseases including things like measles, whooping cough or chicken pox. After January 1st, 2016 parents will be unable to opt-out of immunizations for personal beliefs or religious reasons. If parents have concerns about their child’s health and specific vaccines, parents can partner with their pediatric team to opt-out for medical reasons. Medical conditions like allergies and immune-system deficiencies, or a family history confirmed by a physician, can be used to opt out of vaccines. Thankfully though, those children unable to get all vaccines will be better protected by their fully-immunized peers while at school. Parents could still decline to vaccinate children who attend home-based schools based on personal or religious beliefs.
Three states where it’s now safer to go to school — something they definitely have in common.
More Reading on #SB277:
- LA Times and San Jose Mercury News article on new law
- Governor Brown’s June 30th Letter that accompanied signing the law
- WIRED Magazine “Anti-Vaxxers Use Twitter To Manipulate A Vaccine Bill“
I’m curious – does anyone know how this law applies to colleges in California? I have family members who are homeschool and unvaccinated (not my choice!), and I’m curious what effect this will have on them when they enroll in college.
Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE says
From what I understand, no — doesn’t apply to college/university. This excerpt is from the actual bill itself https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160SB277:
In addition, CDC and Vaccines.gov both recommend Tdap, HPV, Meningitis, and Seasonal Flu vaccines to college-aged young adults.
It depends on the college but most do have basic required immunizations for enrollment – mine had certain required vaccines and vaccine that were ‘recommended’. University of CA requires Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis (Tdap), Rubella, Measles, Mumps, Varicella, Hepatitis, Meningococcal and Tuberculosis screening.
Bummer. I was hoping this might actually get the 19-year-old to get immunized.
leid Jenkinson says
I applaud the three states and wish Alaska had the guts to do it, too.
I am just old enough (born 1946) to remember (1) when Chicago closed schools & public pools, and no one went to the beaches, during polio epidemics. (2) The press conference where they announced the Salk Vaccine. Grown men, in Suits — Scientists and Reporters — cried. (That is now a video, probably on U-Tube.) My mother (born 1907) had Polio when she was about 18 months old – her family was too poor for a doctor. It was a mild case, and when she got over the fever, they assumed she didn’t walk because she wanted all the attention she got while sick. She didn’t know she’d had it until she was about 26. Walked into a doctor’s office, he saw the way she walked, and he said, “You had Polio, didn’t you?” She hadn’t known. She was totally functional in one sense, but one leg was an inch shorter and there was internal problems. Polio victims that survived had to use their bodies like an Olympic athlete all their lives – and literally wore them out. My mother had an indomitable will and endured the pain and disability until she ended up in a wheel chair at about age 86. When she died, at age 92, part of the cause was listed as “Polio Re-Occurance Syndrome”.
I remember lining up in the elementary school auditorium for the shots when I was below or at third grade. I remember getting the sugar-cube boosters. I remember the early TV shows featuring the kids in the Iron Lungs – and in Life Magazine.
Tell me: if you are anti-vaccination and your child is crippled, is that Child Abuse, prosecutable by the law? Are you prepared to support, financially and emotionally, that child for the rest of her or his life? If your child dies, is that Murder, prosecutable by the law?
Yes, we are striving for polite dialogue, but I wonder. If there is a scale of offenses before God, Child Abuse must be at or near the top. We know where murder stands on that list. As a pediatric physician, Dr. Swanson, you must have dealt with Child Abuse, and I am not sure I understand how you survive the experience, and admire you greatly.