After hundreds of people were infected with the measles at Disneyland, state senator Richard Pan, also a pediatrician, sponsored a bill to remove personal exemptions from immunization of schoolchildren, known as Senate Bill 277. While the bill has the support of legislators on both sides of the aisle as well as prominent cosponsors including the California Medical Association, many citizens are concerned about the legal ramifications of this new proposed law.
About Senate Bill 277
Senate Bill 277 removes personal and religious exemptions from the state mandate that all schoolchildren be vaccinated. If this law is passed, only children with a legitimate medical reason not to be completely immunized will be allowed to attend state schools without full vaccination. While Senator Pan has introduced similar bills in the past to no avail, the measles outbreak created a sense of urgency in both legislators and their constituents. “We should not wait for more children to sicken or die before we act,” stated Pan.
If this bill is passed, California will join just two other states, West Virginia and Mississippi, in not allowing any non-medical exemption. Senator Pan has stated that he would consider a religious exemption. However, there is not a single major religion that is against immunization so this will not affect many people.
How Close is Senate Bill 277 to Being Passed?
Senate Bill 277 is currently at the halfway mark of the state legislative process. It has made it through committees to the state senate floor, where it passed with bipartisan support. It now will enter Assembly committees and then come to a vote there. It may undergo changes in the Assembly; if this occurs, then the Senate will vote on it again. Assemblymen will likely vote similarly to the state senators, so the bill appears to be likely to pass.
Pros and Cons
There are several pros and cons to this bill. The major advantage is that it will lower the rate of communicable diseases spread in schools. Research has shown that areas with low vaccination rates, below the 95% needed to maintain herd immunity for a highly contagious disease, are where epidemics of vaccine preventable disease are more likely to occur. While 97% of California schoolchildren are vaccinated, the unvaccinated tend to be clustered in the same communities, leaving other people in the area at risk.
In addition, the bill is expected to save the state millions of dollars. The amount of money spent preventing and treating illness in communities without adequate vaccination is high.
One major downside is that many parents who are against vaccination may pull their children out of school and homeschool them rather than sending them to public school. In addition, many people feel that this bill is an infringement on parental rights.
A Dangerous Precedent?
Many people feel that this bill is setting a dangerous precedent. Almost all states allow a personal exemption from vaccination. However, the California bill seems to have been the first of many laws mandating vaccination for all people who have no medical reason not to. Washington State recently introduced a similar bill, and Australia plans to remove an average of $10,500 per child per year in tax breaks and child care benefits from parents who do not get their child completely immunized.
Senate Bill 277 has been controversial from the start, with pro-vaccination and anti-vaccination sides clashing over whether low immunization rates are a health hazard that should be controlled by the government. However, the bill appears to be likely to pass in the next few months.
Mark Sadaka is a vaccine injury lawyer who represents numerous clients from around the country. Sadaka’s firm has the resources and expertise necessary to successfully handle these medically complex cases. Go to Vaccine Injury Help Center if you have any questions regarding vaccines.