SB 277 heads to State Assembly
A bill mandating vaccinations, barring a medical exemption, in order for children to attend any California licensed school or day care passed the State Senate (25-10) on Thursday, May 14. The State Assembly is expected to hear and vote on Senate Bill (SB) 277 in early June.
As it is currently written, the new law would prohibit admittance to any public or private school, development center, day care, or preschool unless kids are fully immunized based on their age.
Homeschooled students or those enrolled in independent study programs would be exempt from the vaccination law, as are children with documented medical exemptions when immunization is not considered safe for the child, most typically due to severe allergies or immune deficiencies.
Under the existing law in California, parents can also file a personal belief exemption that allows their children to attend school without receiving vaccinations. The exemption form must be signed by a health care professional, stating that the parent was informed about the benefits and risks of immunizations or that their religion prohibits them from seeing a doctor.
If passed, SB 277 will no longer allow parents to send their kids to school without vaccinations based on personal or religious beliefs.
According to a Center for Disease Control (CDC) survey, approximately 17,200 philosophical exemptions were filed for kindergartners in California during the 2013-14 school year and only 1,000 medical exemptions. Michigan has the next highest exemption rate, just below 6,500.
SB 277 would drastically change this.
“This is a very emotionally charged issue. It is something that I think parents need to do the research and make the best decision for their kids and for the consideration of the community,” said Stacey Adler, Superintendent of the Mono County Office of Education. “But I don’t know that it’s the legislature’s place to take that personal choice and place the burden on schools. I have concerns about that.”
Sarah Tapia, mother of two boys (first grade and preschool), doesn’t plan on continuing the prescribed vaccination schedule she started when the boys were young. “Vaccinations are scary to me,” Tapia said. “There are more and more stories out there about lives that are permanently damaged because of what’s put in the vaccines.”
Tapia personally knows some of these people—Her sister-in-law, 25, reacted to a vaccine and had to learn how to walk and talk again, currently functioning at a 16 year-old level. Another friend’s son has mercury poisoning, which causes daily seizures.
“I don’t think I should be forced to do something that has been shown to be unsafe,” she said. “You can’t deny that children’s lives have been permanently damaged because of the side effects or ingredients in vaccines. I don’t care how small the percentage is, it happens. What if you’re that small percentage? What if that’s you or your child?”
If SB 277 passes, Tapia won’t pull her boys out of school, but she’s frustrated that the law could require her to vaccinate her children, something she’s not comfortable doing. “It’s not about pro-vaccinations or anti-vaccinations. It’s about people being able to make their own informed decision and having that choice,” she said.
Hillary Bayliss, immunization coordinator for Mono County Public Health, said the State has yet to release information about how the law will be implemented if passed.
But Adler said SB 277’s vaccination requirement is “counterintuitive” to the concept of public schools, where everyone has the right to an education. “I don’t know how they intend to enforce it,” she said.
SB 277 is authored by State Senators Dr. Richard Pan, also a pediatrician, and Ben Allen, former Board president of Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. The California Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, and Vaccinate California, a group of working mothers fighting to raise vaccination rates in the State, also support the bill. They argue that a less than 90 percent immunization rate decreases the protection of “herd immunization” and unimmunized children are putting entire communities at risk of disease outbreaks.
“If you go camping in a big group of people, it’s safer when everyone is looking out for one another. That’s herd immunity,” said local pediatrician and mother Doctor Kristin Wilson. “I honestly think [SB 277] is a really important thing to protect our community and our schoolchildren …it establishes a precedence for herd immunity to continue to exist.”
As part of enrollment at the Mono County schools, children already have to provide immunization records and are required to have the same list of vaccines as listed in SB 277, Adler said. The Mammoth School District has 1,189 students of which 32 are not completely vaccinated, either for medical or personal belief exemptions. That’s .03 percent of the student body.
“More than 95 percent of our school population is immunized, so herd immunity does apply to our school community,” Adler said.
In Mammoth, “we really truly have very good vaccination reach,” Wilson said. “The one caveat is that Mammoth is still a very highly transient place. We are very much an international community, both within the community and in the visitors who come here.”
Wilson argued that the bill is not a mandatory vaccination law. “It’s only saying that you can no longer be exempt from the vaccines based on personal belief, and only the vaccines currently in practice. It’s not saying that a parent is forced to vaccinate [their children],” she said.
She cited medical research proving vaccines are safe and that any metals or toxins in vaccines are less than we naturally consume in our diet. Wilson urged parents to “read credible sources that are scientific evidence based medicine.”
She encouraged anyone to bring in research and discuss it with her or any of the other pediatricians. “A large part of our job is to help parents provide the best care for their kiddos. If they have questions about vaccines or about the diseases they prevent, ask us.”
Lynn Altieri-Need disagreed. Her son began having daily seizures at the age of three. After a year and a half and multiple treatments, she discovered her son had toxic levels of aluminum “an adjuvant used in vaccines,” she said. “Within two weeks of supporting his detoxification pathways his seizures ended. He has remained seizure free for nearly four years,” she said.
Although Altieri-Need supports certain vaccinations, such as those against polio and diphtheria, she is cautious about the contents of many vaccinations. “Vaccines are prepared with adjuvants such as aluminum, mercury, MSG, formaldehyde, polysorbate 80 (foreign substances) with unpredictable inflammatory responses,” she said. “We’ve been advised that vaccinations are unavoidably ‘safe’ yet the current vaccination schedule has never been studied with truly vaccinated versus unvaccinated individuals and never studied with multiple vaccines delivered at once.”
For the last five years, Altieri-Need has been devoted to her son’s recovery, becoming a Functional Diagnostic Practitioner, and spending most of her time helping children and adults with chronic diseases.
“As a nation, with the most vaccinated children in the world, our children are experiencing an epidemic of chronic disease,” she said. “We need to protect our children in their development, first and foremost. With the rise of immune diseases resulting from antibiotic resistance and autoimmunity, a lack of scientific research to substantiate the administering multiple vaccines at once and knowing that pharmaceutical companies are immune from liability, SB 277 will be putting our children at even greater risk of chronic disease.”
Vaccinations for ten different diseases would be required as part of SB 277. The bill narrative specifically lists measles and pertussis (whooping cough). Outbreaks of both diseases have occurred within the last year most notably the measles outbreak at Disneyland from January 1- May 1 2015.
The CDC states that although no source for the outbreak was identified, infected overseas traveler most likely brought it to the amusement park. 169 cases of measles were reported in over 20 states. According to a CDC survey, 92 percent of Californian kindergarteners are immunized against measles.
Doctor Jorge Moreno out of Montebello, California said in a phone interview with The Sheet on Tuesday that SB 277 is “a response out of fear. People are trying to implement laws that can hurt other children but they are trying to protect themselves and their children.” Moreno is the father of seven children in California schools.
“You can argue the science both ways. I think vaccines in general are a good idea as it’s teaching our immune system to be stronger against certain illnesses,” Moreno said. “The problem comes in when there are heavy metals in the vaccines… if they could make it cleaner and guarantee a decrease in toxicity that’d be different.”
“I have kids in the school system and I don’t have any fears sending them to school,” Adler concluded. “As parents, we’re always trying to make the best decisions about our kids’ health … Whether that’s vaccinations or if we should keep them home from school with a sore throat, we’re always trying to make the best decisions we can and we have to feel good about those decisions.”