California Mandatory Vaccination Law Goes Into Effect

For the first time ever, parents in California are compelled to get their children vaccinated as a precondition for enrolling in school.

But resistance -- and the way the law was written -- means it'll be at least a few years before all school kids in California are vaccinated, according to The New York Times.

Contrary to the fears of anti-vaxxers, California officials aren't implementing the program across the board. Students who are enrolled in school for the first time and students entering seventh grade must have proof of vaccination, the Times reported.

That means some parents can dodge the new vaccination requirements for the time being, but within a few years, every child enrolled in California schools must have proof of vaccination.

“It’s the right thing to do for public health, and it’s the law in California,” Robert Oakes, a spokesman for the California Department of Education, told the Times.

Even with older kids aging out of schools before they're required to get vaccines, organizing the program ahead of the 2016-2017 school year has been a logistical challenge, school officials said.

In the Santa Ana Unified school district, officials began reaching out in the spring to make sure parents understood they would no longer be able to claim religious or personal exemptions. Still, 130 kids weren't vaccinated by the last week of August, according to KPCC Southern California Public Radio.

"It did require an effort, and it did require a push, and dissemination, publicity, and follow-up, but the result is a really good one," said Doreen Lohnes, an assistant superintendent in the district.

Many school districts were still dealing with last-minute vaccination efforts in early September, and several school districts told KPCC they did not yet have full data on how many children had yet to be vaccinated.

For hardline anti-vaxxers, the California law leaves them only two options -- they can home-school their children, or move to a different state.

Stefanie Duncan Fetzer, who opposes vaccines and believes they cause autism, told the Times she knew of some 200 families who had left the state instead of allowing their children to be vaccinated. One of them sold their home, piled in a camper and "just took off," she said.

“They don’t know where they are going to land,” Fetzer said. “They are just going to drive around the country and home-school their kids and hope to find a place to go.”

Sources: The New York Times, KPCC / Photo credit: United States Department of Health and Human Services via Wikimedia Commons

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