A bill to significantly strengthen vaccine requirements for California schoolchildren is heading for the full Senate, and could come up for a vote as soon as Thursday. Responsible lawmakers should vote yes.
Senate Bill 277 would eliminate the state’s lax “personal belief” exemption to required school vaccinations. Driven by fear, ideology and misinformation, red-shirted parents have marched, rallied and disrupted hearings in their effort to derail it.
Their emotional reaction is surely sincere, but this bill is needed. Because the state’s vaccination laws have been far too lenient with vaccine resisters, immunization rates have edged perilously close to the threshold beyond which the immunity of the population can fend off infectious diseases.
With the world passing daily through California, we can’t afford to have pockets of the state opening us all to a resurgence of contagions. Measles is bad enough; next time, it could be rubella, whooping cough or polio.
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Sens. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, and Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, the bill’s authors, have compromised on a few items. The bill as amended would allow children from different families to be home-schooled together if they opt out of the vaccines needed to join a classroom.
The authors also are proposing that a redundant requirement for schools to doubly report vaccination rates also go by the wayside, and have clarified that vaccination documents will only be required of kindergartners and seventh-graders; unvaccinated kids in interim grades will be grandfathered in.
It’s unfortunate that Pan and Allen have had to bargain away these provisions even before the bill hits its first Assembly committee. We hope the bill won’t be softened further.
But they’re smart not to “let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” as some analysts have put it. California has been too laid-back for too long while quacks have spread debunked claims about autism and other supposed vaccine perils.
Their claims are inaccurate and irresponsible, and it’s unfortunate that undoing the damage now requires legislation. Like it or not, California, it’s time to take our medicine.