California Governor Jerry Brown (D) signed into law a new bill eliminating religious and personal belief exemptions for childhood vaccinations. The bill was prompted after a measles outbreak infected 100 at Disneyland where a majority of those stricken were either unvaccinated by choice or were too young to be vaccinated.
The new law makes California the third state after Mississippi and West Virginia to not allow parents to submit a religious exemption from vaccinations and the 33rd state prohibiting “personal belief” exemptions. Now, a child in public or private school may only be exempt from vaccinations for medical reasons like allergy to a vaccine component or an immune deficiency.
The bill generated considerable public outcry against it with thousands of parents calling representatives and protesting at the Capitol and it was not clear Brown would sign it.
The New York Times quoted Christina Hildebrand, founder of A Voice for Choice, a nonprofit organization that has lobbied against the bill, saying, “Parental freedom is being taken away by this because the fear of contagion is trumping it.”
Brown Says Immunization Protects Community
The Associated Press reported Brown’s signing statement one day after lawmakers sent him the bill that requires nearly all public schoolchildren to be vaccinated. The law takes effect next year.
“The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases,” Brown wrote. “While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.”
Democratic Sens. Richard Pan (Sacramento), a pediatrician, and Ben Allen (Santa Monica), whose father has polio, introduced the measure following the outbreak of measles at the theme park. Their bill is designed to raise immunization rates in under-vaccinated pockets of the state. Children who are not vaccinated in California will now have to be homeschooled and many doctors are refusing to accept patients who are not vaccinated due to the considerable risk of illness transmission to patients in their waiting rooms.
The New York Times quoted Pan, saying “We hope and expect we will be a model to get us back to where we should be, which is that cases of measles and other preventable diseases do not need to be something we live with,”
Opponents Vow To Continue Fighting
After the signing of the new law, opponents promised several legal challenges, including a claim that the new law violates children’s right to a free education, which is enshrined in the state Constitution. And tey have already begun several recall campaigns against legislators who pushed for the bill, including Sen. Pan.
Meanwhile, the actor Jim Carrey, who believes there is a link between vaccines and autism, and has been an activist on the issue since his involvement with actress and author, Jenny McCarthy, who believes her son’s autism was caused by vaccines, took to Twitter, where he has 14.7 million followers, and unleashed the following criticism, “California Gov. says yes to poisoning more children with mercury and aluminum in mandatory vaccines. This corporate fascist must be stopped.”
Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) is managing editor of Health Care News.