We’ve had many calls to our office asking about the recent changes in California’s vaccination laws. Parents are asking how the recent law affects their children. Here is information to help you understand the issue.
California citizens have had the right to claim either philosophical or religious exemption from mandatory vaccinations for school age children until now. (States have the right to determine their own laws regarding vaccination exemptions.) The new law which goes into effect July 2016 removes exemptions for philosophical and/or religious reasons thus mandating that all children be vaccinated.
Required vaccinations have become a controversial topic contrasting individual healthcare rights vs. public health and safety. The recent measles outbreak in CA demonstrated how there is less protection to the public when individuals choose not to vaccinate. Though long term negative outcomes are rare with illnesses like the measles, people with compromised immune systems are the ones at risk, and they may not be able to be vaccinated because of their health issues. So mandatory vaccination policy protects those who cannot be vaccinated.
The contrasting issue is that some individuals have negative reactions to vaccinations and the long term effect of multiple vaccinations on the immune system is still unknown. When being exposed to a virus the immune system builds antibodies and has a complex immune response that will serve to protect the individual from that virus and similar viruses in the future. Vaccinations create a much more limited immune response and do not provide the future cross over protection to other viruses but they also prevent adverse reactions from infection.
In San Luis Obispo County some families who have chosen not to vaccinate their children have recently been denied care by pediatricians unless they agreed to vaccinate their children.
For decades the government has protected pharmaceutical companies from lawsuits for adverse reactions to vaccinations. Since the government mandates vaccination policy, they must protect the pharmaceutical companies from lawsuits. This policy limits what doctors can label as adverse reactions to vaccines thus preventing research on vaccination reactions and vaccinated populations vs. unvaccinated populations and their long term health outcomes.
I have worked with families from every religious and philosophical viewpoint, and I respect each family’s right to practice what they deem is good for their family. It is difficult to create political and health management laws that respect these individual rights while also caring for the general public’s health. The argument for public safety also needs to look at the long term effects of the cost of medical treatment for individuals who are negatively affected by vaccines.
This is a complex issue and cannot be simplified into right and wrong. The previous vaccination law enacted in 2014 handled the topic of exemption well by requiring parents to discuss vaccinations with their healthcare providers to discuss the risks and benefits to be able to make an informed decision about vaccinating.