June 14, 2015
Protestors Say Proposed Law is Bad for California’s Kids
ASHLAND — Over a thousand people wearing red attended a rally in Sacramento last Tuesday, June 9 at the California State Capitol to protest SB-277.
If passed, SB-277 will forbid children from attending both public and private schools in California unless they are fully vaccinated.
Partially vaccinated or unvaccinated preschoolers will also be barred from daycare under the proposed law.
In his remarks to the State Assembly Health Committee, Democratic Senator Richard Pan, co-sponsor of the bill, said the law excluding children from school would insure “freedom” for California’s children from infectious diseases.
Yet the bill’s critics point out that rates of infectious childhood illnesses are extremely low in California, despite small pockets of unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children.
Hepatitis B, which will be required for all infants and children under SB-277, is spread mainly through sexual contact and intravenous drug use, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children who are Hepatitis B carriers are allowed to attend school in California (source).
Tetanus, another required vaccine, is a soil-borne bacterium, which cannot be spread from child to child.
The outbreak of measles in Disneyland, which started last December and infected only 131 people in the entire state (in a population of 38.8 million) was declared over by California health authorities in April. There were no deaths.
Health advocates say that the fact that measles, an extremely infectious disease, did not infect more Californians is proof of the high herd immunity in the state.
It is wrong to sacrifice a child’s basic right to education, said Barbara Loe Fisher, director of the National Vaccine Information Center, who flew from Washington to speak at the rally.
“We will defend freedom of thought, and speech, and religion, and conscience in this great country of ours because that’s what it means to be an American,” Fisher said.
Tina Kimmel, Ph.D., a research scientist who has worked for the California Department of Public Health, also spoke in opposition to the bill.
Kimmel said she and her medical colleagues were stunned when California began requiring a Hepatitis B vaccine to all newborns, regardless of risk.
“They were all very pro-vaccine,” she said, “but this was over the line … Hepatitis B was a disease spread in the U.S. primarily through unsafe sex and intravenous drug use … The disease was almost unknown among young, non-immigrant children in California.”
While giving the Hepatitis B vaccine to immigrants from countries where the disease is endemic, particularly in Asia, was an evidence-based practice, Kimmel and her colleagues argued that the evidence did not support its routine use for all infants.
“We knew we would be giving three doses each to a half a million children a year and it was likely to cause more morbidity from the vaccine itself than any disease it was likely to prevent,” Kimmel said. “We knew that from the get-go but we were powerless to stop this worrisome, pointless, and expensive mandate, which apparently was driven by pharmaceutical profits through corruption at the C.D.C.”
Others who spoke in opposition to the bill on Tuesday include Dr. Toni Bark, a Chicago-based M.D., Dr. Brian Hooker, Ph.D., an associate professor of Biology at Simpson University, and Dr. Bob Sears, M.D., a pro-vaccine pediatrician in Southern California and author of The Vaccine Book.
State legislators have received thousands of letters and phone calls from activists around the state who oppose the bill. Critics say it is an unnecessary overreach and a violation of medical freedom.
One letter, from longtime California residents in Oakland, California, read:
My husband and I are pro-vaccine. We chose to vaccinate our children and we believe that children in California should be vaccinated. However, we urge you to vote no on SB-277. Why? Because we do not think the state should decide how and when parents vaccinate their children.
If you do not have a newborn, you may not realize that the Hepatitis B shot is given without hours of birth to all American children, regardless of the newborn’s need for the shot. Hep B is a sexually transmitted disease and can be passed from mother to baby. However, mothers are screened prenatally. The hysterical anti-vaccine “fanatics” you have been hearing about? Some have simply decided to forgo the Hep B shot, which even doctors and CDC officials themselves are choosing to opt out of. These parents are making a smart evidence-based scientific choice that is in the best interests of their family’s health, yet their children will no longer be able to attend school in California. This is just wrong. Decisions about a child’s health should be made in the privacy of a doctor’s office, not in the state legislature.
Despite the Tuesday protests, the bill passed the California State Assembly Committee on Health, 12 – 6.
It now must be voted on by the entire California Assembly.
If it passes, the amended bill will go back to the Senate for review and then to the governor’s desk for approval.
A spokesman for Governor Jerry Brown has said the bill will be “closely considered,” but Brown has not publicly indicated whether he will sign it.
If the bill is signed into law, California will join Mississippi and West Virginia, the only states that do not allow religious or philosophical vaccine exemptions.
Mississippi has the highest infant morality rate in America.
Jennifer Margulis, Ph.D., is an award-winning investigative journalist and former Fulbright grantee based in Southern Oregon. She has a B.A. from Cornell University, an M.A. from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Ph.D. from Emory University. An advocate for children’s health, she is the author/editor of six books, including Your Baby, Your Way: Taking Charge of Your Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Parenting Decisions for a Happier, Healthier Family (Scribner), which includes one chapter on childhood vaccines.
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