Members of the California State Senate approved a bill on Wednesday (April 8) that bans exemptions from vaccinations for all children in school.
The proposed legislation passed in a 6-2 vote by the Senate Health Committee. Now, the bill will go to the legislature and, if passed, will land on Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown's desk to be signed.
The proposal states that parents will no longer be allowed to send their children to school without being vaccinated first, removing the ability for parents to waiver the vaccines based on their religious or personal views. A child will only be exempt from vaccination if they have a medical condition.
The bill, legally known as SB 277, was authored by California State Sens. Richard Pan, Ben Allen and State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, all Democrats. Despite its passage, many citizens voiced their outrage in a protest before the vote.
“We are not against vaccines,” San Diego protest organizer Dani Darrow-Peterson said. “We basically want the choice. If you decide that you don’t want a flu shot for your child that should be your right. If you want to get one that should be your right as well.”
One of the more vocal opponents was Robert Kennedy, Jr., the nephew of former president John F. Kennedy and son to former U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy. He became quite critical of the legislation when interviewed by the Sacramento Bee.
“They get the shot, that night they have a fever of a hundred and three, they go to sleep, and three months later their brain is gone. This is a holocaust, what this is doing to our country,” said Kennedy.
The scientific community's opinion differs greatly from these views, however. A 2015 Pew Research Center report shows that 86% of scientists believe children should be required to be vaccinated. The anti-vaccination movement started in 1998, when Andrew J. Wakefield and his colleagues proposed that the measles vaccine was linked to autism. This study, however, has been disproven time and time again; in fact, the journal in which the proposal was published retracted the study and many of Wakefield's colleagues do not vouch for the study's findings. Wakefield himself was accused of falsifying the data and had his medical license revoked. However, the skepticism of the safety of vaccinations has continued despite these findings.
While the dangers of vaccines have not been proven, the dangers of not vaccinating your children are well-documented. What many people do not always know is that not getting your child vaccinated does not just hurt your child - it puts the rest of the community at risk. This is called "community immunity," also sometimes referred to as "herd immunity," in which the likelihood of an outbreak decreases due to the majority of the population being immunized. One person's chances of catching a disease decrease if everyone else is immunized. Conversely, each person that isn't vaccinated gives a contagious disease the opportunity to spread.
With Wednesday’s vote, California moves closer to becoming the third state in the nation with the strict vaccine laws. West Virginia and Mississippi already have these types of laws in place.
The efforts of mandatory vaccinations began earlier this year, shortly following the measles outbreak that began in Disneyland, located in California. More than 100 people were affected by the disease in the United States and Mexico, Fox News reported.
Photo Credit: Centers for Disease Control