Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Marysville, is responding to Dan Morain's April 25 column, "Nurses union puts politics ahead of health." Part of that column stated that Assembly Republicans, led by Logue, "last week saw an opportunity to ingratiate themselves with parents who fear vaccinations" by voting against AB 2109. That bill would require physicians to sign forms attesting that they had described risks and benefits of vaccinations to parents who refuse to have their children immunized before entering public schools.
Political columnist Dan Morain recently called me out in an article on bills currently before the Legislature that have to do with immunization.
Since Sen. Lois Wolk's bill affecting nurses has not yet come before the Assembly Health Committee, of which I am the vice chair, I will not get into the politics surrounding that issue. However, I think my vote on AB 2109 deserves explanation.
Immunization is an extremely controversial issue, more than many people give it credit for. What AB 2109 would do is insert a new barrier to parental choice. The bill requires that in order to exempt their child from the requirement that all school-age children be immunized, a parent must first get a physician to sign a form declaring that they have provided the parent "information regarding the benefits and risks of the immunization and the health risks of the communicable diseases."
Right now, parents are allowed to claim a medical exemption if they provide a note from a physician, or claim a personal belief exemption. Parents who claim a personal belief exemption do so for various reasons. Many have religious faiths that prohibit use of vaccines, and others have seen their children experience serious negative reactions to vaccines.
While there is the possibility that some parents claim the exemption without solid understanding of the issue, the vast majority of these parents know much more than the average person about the benefits and risks of vaccines.
The reason I voted against AB 2109 is because I do not believe parents should be required to be "informed" by a physician about vaccines before they can exempt their child. The bill implies that parents are uninformed and do not care enough about their children to get informed. Ask any of the parental rights groups or parents who are opposed to this bill and they will tell you that parents care a great deal about the physical health and safety of their children, which is why they claim the exemption.
I am a strong supporter of immunization because I understand its importance to public health. We have all learned about the devastation caused by polio and measles, and how immunization helps to protect us from these diseases.
I also have the greatest respect for physicians. Many in my family have served as physicians and they are literally lifesavers. However, I cannot support infringing on the parent-child relationship by pressuring parents into making a choice for their child that they otherwise would oppose.
There are risks involved with immunization. If a parent believes that the safest thing for their child is not to immunize them, they should not be forced to get a form signed by a physician before their child can attend school. Schools already have the authority to send an un-immunized child home if there is an outbreak, and the vast majority of children are already immunized. I have great respect for the author and sponsors of AB 2109, but this bill simply goes too far.