Vaccines In The Political Crosshairs, California Lawmakers Debate Ending Personal Beliefs Exemption

Child receiving vaccine

Vaccines have been in the news again, with everyone from Rand Paul to the White House weighing in on the science and individual rights versus community safety. Now, California lawmakers are debating whether or not to limit or end the state’s personal beliefs exemption that allows parents to opt out of immunizations for their children. The recent measles outbreak, which most likely started at Disneyland as a result of a visitor who had been infected overseas, has brought the vaccination debate front and center.

After nearly 100 people became inflected with the measles, two California State Senators, Ben Allen and Richard Pan, decided to introduce legislation to end the vaccination exemptions. Reuters reports that in a written statement announcing their intention, California State Senator Ben Allen said, “The high number of unvaccinated students is jeopardizing public health not only in schools but in the broader community. We need to take steps to keep our schools safe and our students healthy.”

According to NPR, California is one of twenty states to allow parents to exempt their children from vaccinations based on personal beliefs. Until last year, when lawmakers added other requirements including getting health care counseling, California also had one of the most lenient policies for implementing the exemption.

Parents request exemptions for a variety of reasons, including religious beliefs, concerns about vaccinations causing illness or complications, and the belief that childhood illnesses help to boost the body’s natural disease-fighting abilities.

The vaccination issue also has hit the national political stage. Rand Paul has said that although he’s not anti-vaccine, he believes parents should have a choice. White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said that President Obama believes that parents should make their decision “with a bias toward good science and toward the advice of our public health professionals.” According to the Huffington Post, even former Florida Governor and potential presidential candidate Jeb Bush weighed in on the issue, saying unequivocally, in a speech before the Detroit Economic Club, “Parents ought to make sure their children are vaccinated. Do we need to get into any detail on that? Parents have a responsibility to make sure their children are protected. Over and out.”

Senator Pan summed up his position, saying, “People are starting to realize, ‘I’m vulnerable, my children are vulnerable.’ We should not wait for more children to sicken or die before we act.”

[Image: Child Receiving Shot]