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California Assembly Passes Strict Vaccination Laws
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California is one step closer to requiring children who enter daycare and schools to be vaccinated, after the state assembly voted in favor of such a requirement on Thursday.

Summary: California is one step closer to requiring children who enter daycare and schools to be vaccinated, after the state assembly voted in favor of such a requirement on Thursday.

The Los Angeles Times reports that on Thursday, lawmakers in California approved one of the strictest mandatory vaccine requirements in the country. NPR adds that the proposed law passed by a 46-30 vote. The law aims to stop exemptions from state immunization laws based on religious or other personal beliefs.


The law will require kids who enter daycares and schools to be vaccinated against various diseases, such as measles and whooping cough. Children with allergies and immune-system deficiencies would be excused from the immunizations, if a medical doctor confirms these complications.

The first vaccine for meningitis B was approved in 2013.

It is still unclear as to whether Governor Jerry Brown will sign the new legislation. The measure was created due to concerns about low vaccination rates in some communities, as well as an outbreak of measles at Disneyland that made over 150 people ill.

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Evan Westrup, the governor’s spokesman, said, “The governor believes that vaccinations are profoundly important and a major public health benefit, and any bill that reaches his desk will be closely considered.”

If the bill passes, California will become the 32nd state to deny exemptions that are based upon personal or moral beliefs. It will be only the third state to deny exemptions for religious beliefs, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures. According to the New York Times, California’s current law makes it easy to obtain an exemption for religious or personal reasons.

Many medical experts praised the Assembly’s vote. Dr. Luther Cobb, the president of the California Medical Association, commented, “We’ve seen with this recent epidemic that rates of immunization are low enough that epidemics can be spread now. The reasons for failing to immunize people…are based on unscientific and untrue objections, and it’s just a good public-health measure…People think these are trivial illnesses. These are not. People die from measles.”

Should parents be able to send their children to school if they are not vaccinated?

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The measure passed the state Senate, but must have some minor amendments approved as well. It has triggered a heated debate among the public and lawmakers.

Senator Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) has actually received death threats in response to the bill. Pan, a pediatrician, helped draft the legislation. Opponents have also filed papers with the state to recall Pan and Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel) from office. Monning has openly voiced his support for the bill.

Hundreds of parents surrounded the Capitol during legislative hearings, demonstrating their opposition to the bill. Many parents believe that vaccines are not safe, and that the proposal violates their privacy rights. They argue that they alone should decide whether they vaccinate their children. More parents gathered on Thursday in anticipation of the vote.

Should vaccines be a choice?

Luke Van der Westhuyzem, a parent from Walnut Creek, joined the protests. “This bill puts the state between children and parents regardless of your position on vaccination.”

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) supports the measure. She said she understood the parents’ concerns. She commented, “While I respect the fundamental right to make that decision as a family, we must balance that with the fact that none of us has the right to endanger others.”

Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale) voted against the measure. He remarked, “The broadness of this bill likely dooms it from a constitutional standpoint.” He further accused California of “infringing on the rights of children to attend school.”

Currently, over 13,500 California kindergarten students have received waivers for vaccinations based upon their parents’ beliefs. One parent group, A Voice for Choice, stated that the Thursday decision was “unsettling,” according to spokeswoman Christina Hildebrand.

Hildebrand added that her group will challenge the measure with a referendum or in court if it is passed. “We are pulling out all the stops. This bill is unconstitutional,” she said.

Glaxo faced controversy over its flu vaccine in 2013.

Dr. Catherine Sonquist Forest, the medical director of the Stanford Health Care clinic in Los Altos, said that immunizations are necessary to protect babies who are too young to receive vaccines. She explained, “This isn’t a question of personal choice. This is an obligation to society.”

Forest is currently treating a 4-year-old boy who is dying from a rare complication of measles that led to an infection in his brain. He was infected when he was just 5 months old—an age too young to receive the vaccination.

Areal Loop, a mother from Pasadena, was relieved that the proposal was approved. Her 4-month-old son, Mobius, contracted the measles as a result of the Disneyland outbreak. “I’m hoping Jerry Brown does the right thing and signs it once it gets through the last Senate [vote],” she said.

Source: Los Angeles Times

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