Californians stall mandatory vaccination scheme

Several hundred Californians swarmed the State Capitol on Wednesday to oppose a bill that would eliminate their right not to vaccinate their children against contagious diseases like measles. They were able to help stall a committee vote on the legislation by a week.
The bill, introduced after a measles outbreak over the winter that originated at Disneyland, would require nearly all children to be vaccinated, eliminating the growing use of the so-called personal belief exemption that has contributed to the spread of preventable diseases. Parents who refused to immunize their children and did not have a medical exemption would be forced to teach their children at home.
The bill, which was passed by the State Senate’s Health Committee, was up for a hearing on Wednesday before the Senate Education Committee. There, the small but vocal minority of parents who object to scientifically proven vaccinations showed up in force and helped stall the measure.
“I strongly oppose injection of questionable materials into the bodies of our children as a condition of education,” said Steve Wall, an environmental engineer from Bay Point, who lined up with hundreds of others to denounce the bill before the Education Committee.
State Senator Richard Pan, a physician and a Democrat, has been threatened on Facebook over his sponsorship of the bill. He told the committee that the growing use of the personal belief exemption had been identified as aiding the spread of measles from the Disneyland outbreak. “We are clearly at a point where our community immunity is dropping too low,” he said. To believe otherwise, he said, is a “luxury.” Jay Hansen, a member of the Sacramento City Unified School District, said the
measure was based on science, not emotion. “We should stand up for the scientific method we all learned in school,” he said.
But after nearly two hours of opposition testimony, doubts among committee members emerged, from both Republicans and majority Democrats. One concern was that the bill did not address what would happen to children who now have exemptions from vaccines on Jan. 1, when the law would take effect. At the end of the hearing, Senator Carol Liu, the committee chairwoman and a Democrat, told Mr. Pan that his bill lacked the votes for passage and gave him a week to fix the measure.
If the bill passes, California will become the largest state by far to bar exemptions from vaccines for any reason other than medical necessity. Only two other states, Mississippi and West Virginia, have such rules.
Testifying for the bill, Romana Garcia, 77, who has used a wheelchair since childhood because of polio, tearfully declared, “I beg you, please prevent infectious diseases that are preventable.”
Also supporting Mr. Pan’s bill were groups like the California Medical Association, the March of Dimes, the California State PTA and the California School Boards Association.
The hearing drew one of the largest crowds seen in the Capitol in years. Some people waited for hours to speak their name, city and their opposition to the measure. Among them was Jeany Bowen of San Diego, with her sons, Colin, 7, and Ethan, 12. She described herself as the “mother of two unvaccinated, healthy boys.”
She said one of her sons suffered a reaction to a vaccine when he was young, but her physician insisted that it was a virus. “I never saw a doctor who said it was the vaccine,” she said.
She said that she taught the boys at home, but that Ethan would like to go to a public high school. “But he won’t be able to if this bill passes,” she said.
From December to mid-April, 134 people in California were reported by the state to have contracted measles. Attention focused on the growing number of unvaccinated children whose parents used the personal belief exemption. The state reports that 2.5 percent of kindergarten pupils in 2014 were excused from some vaccines because of the exemption, but in some areas the percentage ran much higher; in Nevada County, in the Mother Lode of the Sierra Nevada, it was 22
percent, or 184 pupils.

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