Calif. bill targets parents who skip kids' shots

May 10, 2012 7:04:07 PM PDT
The state assembly passed a controversial bill Thursday that forces parents who don't want to vaccinate their kids to see a health care professional.

In the San Jose Unified School District just over 1 percent of the families opt out of those recommended vaccinations, but in other communities it can be higher, up into the double-digits. And that's why the author of this assembly bill says he wants to help parents make an informed decision.

Many parents worry classrooms can be an incubator for germs and disease.

School districts want kids to get a number of vaccinations, but parents can and do get personal belief waivers for a variety of reasons.

"Folks don't really have to outline specifically what their reasons are, they just say they have a personal reason for which they would not like to have their children vaccinated and we accept that," said Tabitha Kappeler-Hurley with the Santa Clara Unified School District.

The assembly on Thursday passed a bill by Richard Pan, M.D., D-Sacramento, that would add one more piece of paper to the process. It would require parents who don't immunize their children to talk with a licensed health care professional.

"This is a bill that's important to ensure that parents are able to make an informed decision about vaccinating their children before school entry," said Pan.

The California Medical Association supports the bill saying there has been a surge of misinformation about vaccines, especially linking them to an increased risk of autism.

"Having the vaccines will prevent your children from getting potentially life-threatening infections. So I feel strongly that all children should be vaccinated and on schedule," said pediatrician Julie Kim, M.D.

Opponents of the bill say it adds an unnecessary requirement which puts parents in the position of being bullied by doctors who think they know best.

"Even if it was easy for them to get a signature, the reality is we should not have to get permission to opt out of a medical procedure," said parent Dawn Winkler.

Doctors say the more people who go unvaccinated, the faster potentially deadly disease spreads though the population as a whole, but even some parents who vaccinate their kids support those who don't.

"They're parents. You are entitled to your own decisions so if they feel they don't want to vaccinate for one reason or another, then it's entirely up to them," said parent John Mu.

Pan's office says the bill passed the assembly on a 47-26 vote. It now moves onto the Senate and is likely to be heard by policy committees next month.

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