Health Roundup: Vaccination Exemption Law Toughened

  ·  Bruze Hazelton, Orange County Register   ·   Link to Article

It's now more difficult for parents to opt out of key vaccinations for California school children.

Under a law that passed the state legislature in 2012 and went into effect on New Year's Day, parents now need to visit with a doctor to hear about the benefits of vaccination if they're going to file a personal belief exemption with the school.

However, elsewhere on the new form is a box that parents can check if their religious beliefs preclude them from letting their children become inoculated. That box was put there at the insistence of Gov. Jerry Brown before he signed the bill into law, and its existence troubles public-health advocates.

Dr. Richard Pan, a Sacramento Democrat who is chairman of the assembly committee on health, sponsored the bill. He said the eradication of childhood diseases years ago could lull some parents into thinking they're no longer a threat.

“Anyone who thinks that very preventable illness can't come back … unfortunately, we're seeing this in Syria, a country where polio was essentially eliminated. Now you're seeing a resurgence of polio,” he said.

In 2010, 10 California children died of pertussis, or whooping cough, a disease nearly wiped out in the state decades ago. And as of Dec. 18, there were 1,904 cases in the state, nearly twice as many as 2012. But there had been no deaths.