The California Senate has passed its strict immunization law, requiring children in public and private schools to receive vaccinations regardless of objections on personal or religious grounds. Legislators moved swiftly following the measles outbreak that began at Disneyland earlier this year, working towards a legal response to the national debate regarding government-required immunization. Skeptics who were concerned about a potential link between vaccinations and autism — or those who object for other reasons — have now essentially been told by California lawmakers that their concerns are not valid. All schoolchildren (or nearly all schoolchildren), according to the new legislation, must now receive vaccinations in accordance with the CDC’s guidelines.
According to Mashable, the new law only allows children to opt out of the required immunization for a few reasons. Home-schooled students and those enrolled in an “independent study” program outside of a classroom are exempt, as are students who are advised against immunization for medical reasons. All other students at California private and public schools, however, are required to receive vaccinations for diseases like measles and chickenpox. The bill will now make its way to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown, although it’s uncertain whether or not it will be signed into law.
If Brown does sign the bill, it will be viewed as a victory for those who support the scientific evidence behind the effectiveness of immunization. If people don’t get their kids vaccinated, the argument goes, outbreaks like the one that occurred this year will continue. According to the CDC, the U.S. had a record number of measles cases in 2014. That’s largely attributed to the trend of parents refusing to get their children vaccinated.
At this point, however, it’s impossible to separate immunization from its politicized nature. This year’s measles outbreak had lawmakers from around the nation debating the issue, and President Obama even indicated his support for mandatory vaccinations. “There is every reason to get vaccinated — there aren’t reasons to not,” Obama said, according to the Washington Post. “I just want people to know the fact sand science and the information. And the fact is that a major success of our civilization is our ability to prevent disease that in the past have devastated folks. And measles is preventable."
Regardless of the scientific evidence in support of immunization, many will view California’s law as an example of the government’s overreaching infringement on individual and parental freedoms. Not all other states, however, are as supportive of the freedom to oppose immunization. According to the National Conference of State Legislators, only 20 states allow for “philosophical exemptions for those who object to immunizations because of personal, moral or other beliefs.” Mississippi and West Virginia are the only states that do not allow exemptions for religious reasons. California, in fact, is currently one of just 20 states that allows parents to opt-out based on either religious or personal beliefs.
If Brown signs the bill, however, California will enact one of the strictest vaccination laws in the country. Those who object to the law on religious or moral grounds will be issued a setback, but their voices will be far from silenced. According the Huffington Post, both California’s Capitol and social media have been flooded with outspoken parents angry over the law’s infringement on their freedoms. If the bill is signed into law, however, the national debate over immunization and the government’s role in protecting the health of children is likely to continue. The science is clear, yet history has shown that concerned U.S. citizens will refuse to let the well-being of the nation get in the way of their religious or philosophical beliefs.
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