It will become more difficult to obtain vaccination exemption for school children if a new bill becomes law in California. State legislators are now considering a proposal that would require parents to attend a counseling session with a doctor before opting out of getting their kids immunized. Dr. Richard Pan, a medical doctor, state assemblyman and the author of the proposal, said he was driven to introduce it by the increasing number of cases of vaccine-preventable diseases popping up in California and elsewhere in the country. He believes that the main reason the number of kids getting infected is going up, is that the number of parents who are choosing not to get children their recommended shots is likewise growing.
Jillian Edwards, a 27-year-old mother of two, is one of a number of parents who are not at all, or only partially, immunizing their kids.
“In the first year of their life, the kids get like 15 shots, which is so much for such a tiny body,” Edwards said. “I think it was more the likelihood of them catching the disease versus the likelihood of them having a bad reaction.”
Dr. Steven Nishibayashi says that’s a common sentiment among many parents when it comes time to immunize their kids — even though it’s not backed by science. “Most of the fears about immunizations are not well founded,” he said.
The move away from vaccination begun with the publication, in the British medical journal The Lancet, of Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s paper that linked the shots to incidents of autism. Although the paper has since been entirely discredited, partially, and then fully retracted by the journal and even though Wakefield’s license to practice medicine in Britain was yanked, the damage had been done. Wakefield’s theory on a causal relationship between autism and immunization was picked up by other scientists and, subsequently, celebrities, and the wide publicity led to parents who were concerned about harming their children, starting to turn away from routine vaccinations in droves.
Many doctors believe that the fear of vaccines is what has led to the recent reemergence of childhood diseases like measles, mumps and rubella. Whopping cough, a sickness that hadn’t claimed a single victim in California in decades, killed 10 kids in 2010. After a new regulation made a booster shot for Pertussis mandatory for kids entering 7th grade, no further deaths in the state were recorded.
Nishibayashi said there is plenty of good and accurate science that shows there is no definitive link between vaccines and other problems like autism. The problem, said Nishibayashi, is that because vaccines are generally administered around the time that autism is first diagnosed in children — the first two years of life — there is no way to prove to an absolute statistical certainty that the two aren’t related.