Answering calls from worried citizens after the measles outbreak earlier this year, two California state senators have proposed legislation that would end the right for parents to exempt their children from vaccination based on their personal beliefs.
The “personal belief” exemptions have been heavily criticized recently, leading to a debate on whether it should be mandatory for all children to be vaccinated before they are allowed to attend a public or private school.
All states require some sort of vaccination for all children before they enter school, but they also allow parents to opt out. In California, parents may object to vaccinations by showing the school proof that they have discussed their decision with a doctor. Another acceptable exemption would be based on religious views, which does not need a doctor’s approval..
The proposed changes now have 26 legislative supporters, including state Senators Richard Pan, a doctor, and Ben Allen, both Democrats.
Sen. Pan admitted that there was not a religious exemption in his legislation, saying: “There is no religious exemption in this statute. I’m certainly open to the discussion about the necessity and nature of any proposed religious exemption.”
Sen. Allen said, “The high number of unvaccinated students is jeopardizing public health not only in schools but in the broader community. We need to take steps to keep our schools safe and our students healthy.”
The proposed legislation is also supported by California’s two U.S. Senators, Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. In a note sent to the state Health and Human Services Secretary, the Senators wrote, “We think both options are flawed, and oppose even the notion of a medical professional assisting to waive a vaccine requirement unless there is a medical reason, such as an immune deficiency.”
According to state public health officials, 92 people have been diagnosed with measles in California, all due to an outbreak of the disease that began when an infected person from outside the United States visited Disneyland late last year.
In 2012, California politicians made it more difficult for parents to opt out of vaccinations by requiring parents to consult with a doctor to fulfill the “personal belief” exemption. Before signing it into law, Governor Jerry Brown (D) wrote in a religious exemption, as well.
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