With 92 reported cases of measles, which originated in Disneyland, state lawmakers announced Wednesday new legislation that would do away with exemptions from the mandate to vaccinate children before starting school.
The action is an attempt to contain what has become a resurgence of the childhood disease which had practically subsided in the U.S. until recently. Exemptions based on religion or personal objections would be abolished if the new law passes. The legislation applies only to children who attend public or private schools; home-schooled kids are not addressed in the legislation.
The measles outbreak has brought back the old vaccine debate—personal liberty vs. the public good. Should a parent’s right not to immunize against a potentially deadly disease override the risk of public safety?
“There are not enough people being vaccinated to contain these dangerous diseases," said Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), a pediatrician. "We should not wait for more children to sicken and die before we act."
Reasons for not vaccinating children vary, but one major group opting out is parents of autistic kids.
Flawed research that vaccines for childhood disease lead to autism was first published by British doctor Andrew Wakefield in 1998 in the Lancet, and was retracted in 2010. The original research was only based on 12 cases, which did not even represent a respectable sample.
The British Medical Journal reported “not one of the 12 cases reported in the 1998 Lancet paper was free of misrepresentation or undisclosed alteration…and that in no single case could the medical records be fully reconciled” with Lancet publication.
Critics suspect that British libel laws may have caused the fraudulent research to prevail for 12 long years—deceiving parents and leaving kids vulnerable to preventable diseases in the process.
A spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown, Evan Westrup, signaled that the governor is behind the California bill. "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," Westrup said.
The new legislation would also require the notification of parents of the vaccination rates at their children's schools. It is supported by Kris Calvin, chief executive of the California chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Currently, 13,592 children have personal belief affidavits on file; of those, 2,764 were identified as based on religious beliefs. About 10% of California parents have opted out of mandatory vaccinations.