Amid a measles outbreak and a fierce national political debate over vaccine requirements, a pair of California lawmakers has proposed eliminating an exemption in state law that has allowed parents there to opt out of getting their children vaccinated for unspecified personal or philosophical reasons.
Such a change would make California’s vaccine law one of the country’s strongest.
As I reported in May, public health officials have zeroed in on such exemptions from vaccines required for school attendance as a key reason for declining vaccination rates in some areas. Resulting concentrations of unvaccinated children in some areas have contributed to the spread of preventable illnesses, such as the measles, they say.
Nineteen states have such personal belief exemptions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Because California doesn’t have a seperate religious exemption, the passage of the proposed bill would lump it with just two other states—West Virginia and Mississippi—that only allow exemptions for medical reasons.
But passage will be an uphill battle. While the bill, which would also require schools to report vaccination rates, has support of public health groups, similar efforts have failed in other states.
In many of those states with personal belief exemptions, parents can opt out of vaccines before enrolling their child in school for the first time, and they are never asked about it again. Rather than eliminating the exemptions all together, some states have required mandatory counseling for parents before they can opt out, or they’ve required parents to opt out on an annual basis.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.