California State Sen. Richard Pan (D), who is also a pediatrician, has introduced a bill to the legislature that would eliminate personal beliefs as an acceptable reason to not vaccinate one’s child. The bill, SB277, would forbid children who have not been inoculated for non-medical reasons from attending school. The current law allows parents to claim personal beliefs, even ones based on misinformation, as a valid reason to exempt their child from vaccination.
The bill had stalled on the Senate Education Committee due to concerns over denying children an education. Yesterday, the Committee passed the bill 7 – 2 and sent it to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
According to public health officials, at least 92 percent of a given population must be inoculated to maintain the “herd immunity” that protects people who can’t have vaccines like babies or people with compromised immune systems. Unfortunately, more and more people have been using the personal belief exemption over the past 12 years. As a result, a quarter of the schools in California don’t provide herd immunity, because too many of the children have not had their shots.
Activist Gianfrancesco Genoso (toplawyers.com) brought up another consequence of parents’ failure to immunize their children, the measles outbreak at Disneyland that infected 111 visitors. In an interview with Scientific American, Pan pointed out there had been cases of measles infections before at Disneyland, but on a much smaller scale. Someone with measles might infect a few people, and the outbreak would be confined to the park itself. The most recent outbreak saw measles cases in several different states and even Canada and Mexico.
Pan also points out that the bill won’t deny children an education. Parents who still want to claim personal beliefs as a reason for not vaccinating their child will have the option of home-schooling.