A bill has been approved by California's Senate Health Committee that would put an end to a parents' right to opt out of vaccinations for children who are enrolled in the public school system.
Senate Bill 227 came about after a number of recent disease outbreaks including one of measles and whooping cough. The bill ends the "personal belief exemption" that offered parents in the state the ability to enroll their children without having to vaccinate their children first. According to doctors and public health officials, the increase in exemptions could undo the "herd immunity" that is currently protecting those too young or ill to be vaccinated.
"If it were just a decision about their child, I think you would find no quarrel with having a right to make that decision," said Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, but "you're making a choice not just for your child, not just for your family, but a choice that affects another person's child."
The bill would allow only children who have been previously immunized for a number of diseases, such as measles and whooping cough, to be admitted to school in the state of California. Medical exemptions would be the only ones allowed. In addition, schools would be required to notify parents of immunization rates, writes Tracy Seipel for The San Jose Mercury-News.
Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, was one of two to oppose the bill in the final vote, which went 6-2. Nielson said he opposed the bill because the rights of the parent must come before public health goals, writes Jeremy White for The Sacramento Bee.
"I have very profound feelings about parental rights and responsibilities and great dismay in American society over the decades how much that parental right, that parental responsibility has diminished," Nielsen said.
There are a number of recent studies which show there is no link between vaccines and autism. Vaccine manufacturers have worked to remove all traces of the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal from all vaccines. Although some risks to vaccines, such as allergic reactions, do exist, medical professionals insist that the benefits far outweigh those risks.
Still, a number of parents continue to dispute the findings and feel that the bill is an attack on their personal freedom. Hundreds of these parents came to a screening of a film providing a connection between autism and thimerosal, and still more attended a rally prior to the hearing pertaining to the bill.
"Our work is just beginning," an advocate named Karen Kain, who warned that vaccines contain "aborted fetal tissue" and formaldehyde, told the crowd. "Let's tell them our stories."
The hearing for the bill was packed with event activists, many of whom spoke out against vaccinations, suggesting that they could possibly hurt or kill children. At least two of these people were forcibly removed after they yelled over lawmakers. Some from the group laughed, with someone shouting the word "lie!" when Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, a pediatrician, noted that there were no confirmed deaths due to the measles vaccine.