Mandatory Vaccination Bill Quickly Advancing Through Legislature

vaccine2After a fractious debate, the California Senate passed a revised draft of the controversial bill that would largely eliminate the state’s religious and personal belief exemptions for child inoculation. With the bill on a likely track for passage in the Assembly, momentum has begun to gather for even more muscular pro-vaccine legislation.

Sweeping changes

As CalWatchdog.com previously reported, state Sens. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, and Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, had to rewrite key passages of the bill’s language in order to head off potential constitutional challenges to its treatment of kids without the specified vaccinations.

The bulk of the original bill remained intact, however, sweeping away California’s longstanding and generous rules permitting parents to keep their children vaccine-free. “Several Republican senators tried to stall the bill by introducing a series of amendments that would have reinserted the religious exemption and required labeling of vaccine ingredients,” according to the Sacramento Bee. But Democrats moved swiftly to shut them down.

For some critics, barring unvaccinated children from public school remained a bone of contention. “It’s clear that a large portion of concerned parents will likely withhold their children from public schools because of their concerns or lack of comfort from the vaccination process,” said GOP state Sen. John Moorlach, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

But some carveouts were set to remain. “The legislation only addresses families that will soon enroll their children in school,” as Newsweek observed. “Under the proposed law, children who aren’t currently immunized are not required to get vaccinated until seventh grade. The law still allows families to opt out due to medical reasons, such as a history of allergies to vaccines and inherited or acquired immune disorders or deficiencies.”

The so-called grandfather clause represented a major concession to parents’ groups, which had succeeded in stalling Pan and Allen’s legislation once before. Now, as the San Jose Mercury News reported, “more than 13,000 children who have had no vaccinations by first grade won’t have to get their shots until they enter seventh grade. And nearly 10,000 seventh-graders who today aren’t fully vaccinated may be able to avoid future shots because the state does not always require them after that grade.”

Regulatory momentum

Despite the lenience built into the advancing legislation, the pro-vaccine logic that propelled it has already increased momentum for an even more assertive approach to enforcing inoculation.

As KQED News has noted, “two other vaccine-related bills are making their way through the Legislature a bit more quietly. One would require preschool and child care workers to have certain vaccinations; another seeks to improve vaccination rates for 2-year-olds.”

“If SB792 becomes law, California will be the first state in the country to require that all preschool and child care workers be immunized against measles, pertussis and the flu.”

Supporters of the ratcheted-up regulation sought to head off more controversy by downplaying the invasiveness and inconvenience of their approach. “We certainly aren’t out to arrest people who aren’t vaccinated,” said Kat DeBurgh, executive director of the Health Officers Association of California, a group that sponsored SB792. “We wanted to make this just like any other violation of code that an inspector would look for. If you don’t remediate, then there is a fine to the day care center.”

At the same time, pro-vaccination analysts have speculated that the Golden State will save money the more it ensures vaccination. Referring to a recent study showing that Iowa’s health care spending would double if it added a personal belief exemption, Tara Haelle suggested that California’s “health care cost savings would be far more substantial” once its exemption was eliminated, although, she conceded, “no thorough analyses are currently available.”

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

California Senate OKs controversial school vaccine bill

As reported by the Associated Press:

State senators passed a bill Thursday aimed at increasing California’s school immunization rates after a measles outbreak at Disneyland last year.

The bill was approved on a 25-10 vote after a series of emotional hearings this year at which opponents called for preserving parental rights on the matter.

The measure would prohibit parents from seeking vaccine exemptions for their children because of religious or personal beliefs.

The bill, which now goes to the Assembly, would make…

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Proposed Bill Will Force Parents to Choose: Vaccinate or Homeschool

The measles outbreak has injected the California Legislature with a new urgency in dealing with vaccine issues. First up is a new bill, as yet without a number, by state Sens. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, and Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, the latter a pediatrician.

According to Pan’s website, the bill “will repeal the personal belief exemption that currently allows parents to effectively opt their child out of vaccines in our schools.” Under the exemption, “a parent may choose to opt their child out of school vaccine requirements that bi-partisan legislative majorities passed to protect students.”

As the Sacramento Bee reported, the vaccination issue has roiled California in unexpected ways, with “anti-vaxxers” cutting across familiar ideological and political categories. “I’m a registered Democrat, but that could possibly change,” one parent told the paper. “I could never be with a party that mandates, and takes away freedom from people.”

But Republicans have been wary of championing residents seen as directly responsible for the outbreak of major diseases. Some GOP officeholders in Sacramento have begun to reverse their earlier support of California’s relatively broad personal belief exemption, which extends beyond a carveout for religious beliefs. Others have reaffirmed a measured commitment to both vaccination and parental choice.

According to the Los Angeles Times, however, the bill would nevertheless extend some political cover to conservatives whose constituents favor close parental control of medical choices:

“The legislation does not address children who are completely home-schooled. It would still allow children to avoid vaccination for medical reasons including allergic responses and weak immune systems. The mandate only applies to children attending public or private schools.”

Democratic divisions

Perhaps surprisingly, Republicans may have already felt the worst of the political awkwardness — while Democrats face more internal disagreement. As the Wall Street Journal reported, “Dr. Pan wrote a 2012 law that went into effect last year that required a consultation with a health care practitioner to obtain the personal belief exemption. Gov. Jerry Brown added an exemption based on religious beliefs upon signing that law.”

Now, Brown’s office has indicated the governor is open to erasing the personal belief exemption.

Both California’s U.S. Senators, Democrats Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, also have urged their fellow party members to consider eliminating the religious-belief exemption. In a letter to California Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley and other officials, the senators set out an uncompromising position:

“California’s current law allows two options for parents to opt out of vaccine requirements for school and daycare: they must either make this decision with the aid of a health professional, or they can simply check a box claiming that they have religious objections to medical care. 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.”

What’s more, Boxer and Feinstein went after parents who sought modified or delayed vaccination schedules even for preschool children — a move that could unsettle the swift but fragile bipartisan consensus forming around the Pan-Allen bill.

As BuzzFeed reported, the response among Democrats has not been as crisp and confident as Boxer and Feinstein might have hoped:

“Several liberal lawmakers unequivocally said parents should vaccinate their kids. But when pressed further on the state laws that allow parents to skip vaccinating their children if they have a medical, religious, or ‘personal belief’ reason not to do so, their answers became less clear.”

Nationally prominent California Democrats, from Rep. Maxine Waters to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, couched their language in a way that steered clear of Boxer and Feinstein’s vaccination absolutism.

The office of California Attorney General Kamala Harris — who hopes to replace Boxer in the Senate — declined to answer any questions about Harris’s own stance.

Originally published on CalWatchdog.com

Vaccine Critics Get Defensive Over Measles

As reported by Jack Healy and Michael Paulson of the New York Times:

Their children have been sent home from school. Their families are barred from birthday parties and neighborhood play dates. Online, people call them negligent and criminal.

And as officials in 14 states grapple to contain a spreading measles outbreak that began near here at Disneyland, the parents at the heart of America’s anti-vaccine movement are being blamed for incubating an otherwise preventable public-health crisis.

Measles anxiety rippled thousands of miles beyond its center last week as officials scrambled to contain a wider spread of the highly contagious disease – one that America declared vanquished 15 years ago, before a statistically significant number of parents started refusing to vaccinate their children. … 

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