California “Personal Belief” May Be Eliminated

SAN FRANCISCO, Cal – Last week, lobbyists introduced a law that, if passed, will take away the “personal belief” exception to the current vaccination law in California.

Currently, California law allows for parents to opt out of vaccinations for their children. You have two outs: if your child has a pertinent medical condition or if you hold a “personal belief” that disallows for the vaccination of your children. The law that has been introduced will allow the medical exception to remain in place while eliminating the “personal belief” exception.

State Senator Richard Pan, the author of the bill, is also a medical doctor. He points to concern over the recent measles outbreak in the state as a reason for getting rid of the “personal belief” exception.

There is no religious exemption to the vaccination requirement. According to the Supreme Court, “…the right to practice religion freely does not include the liberty to expose the community or the child to communicable disease or the latter to ill health or death.”

So what happens in California when you do not have your children vaccinated? The police are not going to be knocking on your door and carting you off to jail. What will happen, however, is that your children may be denied enrollment in school. With the current exemptions in place, a school cannot legally bar your child. If the “personal belief” exemption is repealed, your only option, should you continue to forego vaccinations, is to homeschool your children.

The bill currently has 26 sponsors, most of them Democrats. Whether the law will pass or not remains to be seen, but the pro-vaccination movement is taking steam. Oregon and Washington have similar bills on the table.

It is important to understand the nature of vaccines versus illness before deciding where you stand on the new law.

In 1968, the first measles vaccine was distributed. By 1981, instances of measles had dropped by 80%. A measles outbreak in 1989 led to improvements in the vaccine. Nine years later, a paper published by Andrew Wakefield links the MMR vaccine to autism; celebrities jump aboard the anti-vaccination train. In 2010, Wakefield’s paper was retracted and the doctor lost his medical license.

The rise and fall of diseases can be linked to vaccinations. People are vaccinated, disease drops. Disease drops, people are more likely to join the anti-vaccine movement. Fewer people are vaccinated, instances of the disease rise.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no middle ground in this controversy. No matter which side of the fence you are on, we can only wait and see if the bill is passed and how many states follow suit.

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