Is Vaccination Really a Parenting Decision?


When Oscar was an infant, too young to be vaccinated, he tested positive for whooping cough. At the hospital, he coughed and choked for hours. After one coughing episode, he just stopped breathing. The hospital resuscitated him. A couple weeks later, he started to improve and his family went home. About a week later, his mother woke up to Oscar having a coughing fit. At the end of the fit, Oscar turned blue.

Then he turned grey.

His mother frantically performed CPR on him, on the living room floor, while her other kids were hysterical. After about 45 seconds, Oscar started to breathe again. Then, a week later, he stopped breathing when the family was in the car. The kids were screaming and he was blue. Again, she had to do CPR, this time on someone’s lawn. One hundred days in, he was still really sick and coughing.

This is whooping cough.

It’s devastating. Thankfully, eventually Oscar recovered (hear the whole story here).

We all know California is in the midst of a measles and whooping cough epidemic, both of which are vaccine-preventable. Parents are choosing not to vaccinate their kids, allowing these diseases to make a come-back.

One thing I’ve learned through parenting is that each parent does their best. And things don’t turn out the way we expected—we make unexpected parenting decisions. Some parents end up with babies in their beds every night, who swore their baby would sleep in a crib. Some moms stop breastfeeding after just a few weeks, when they planned on much longer. And that’s OK. Even with our unexpected parenting decisions, it all works out OK.

But deciding whether to vaccinate our kids–is this a parenting decision? Or is it more, because when a parent doesn’t vaccinate, they then endanger other kids, as well? Dr. Richard Pan, California Senator and pediatrician, shares that he believes, “Parents should not have to live in fear of their child contracting a potentially fatal disease at school or in the grocery store because of another parent’s choice not to vaccinate their child.”

And, Thursday, Dr. Pan walked the walk. He and other California lawmakers introduced Senate Bill 277 (SB 277) that would require children in California to be vaccinated in order to attend schools or daycares. The bill would also require schools to notify parents of immunization rates at the school.

This bill still allows for a medical exemption, if a child can’t receive vaccines for medical reasons. However, it eliminates the option for parents to opt out of vaccines based on personal beliefs.

The proposed bill also does not allow parents to opt out based on religious beliefs. This may be necessary to really close loopholes. But it’s stirred up a lot of controversy.

The Anti-vaxers are going ballistic, posting quotes and pictures of Hitler and threatening to stop schooling their children. Others suggest they’ll just home school their kids. But either way, the buzz is that they plan to fight like hell against this bill.

On the other side of the issue, the measles outbreak and whooping cough epidemic have also stirred up some strong emotions. The Disneyland Measles outbreak alone has now infected 162 people in 17 states. About one in four measles patients became so sick they required hospitalization.

And, according to the Department of Health, Pertussis (whooping cough) infected 11,114 people last year… in California alone. A majority (61%) of those hospitalized were infants less than 4-months-old. Five infants in California died.

So, can a law pass like this, without a religion exemption? Or is that unconstitutional? Well, there’s something called Strict Scrutiny that allows some laws to pass that infringe on constitutional rights, in order to preserve multiple lives. “In my estimation, even under the strictest interpretation, removing even a religious exemption in this instance is permissible,” shares University of Nebraska Political Science professor Ari Kohen, “It’s impermissible for someone to argue that freedom of religion gives them a trump card when it comes to public health”. So, yes–legally, it could pass.

Is it too restrictive? Maybe. Some people may feel excluding a religion exemption is a slippery slope. And, the bill includes all schools—private and public. The law also lists other vaccines as mandatory, including Varicella (Chickenpox), which may not be as critical.

But, the bill keeps things black and white. Someone can’t just say “I don’t believe in vaccines” and get out of them. And it doesn’t split hairs over which epidemics are here and which vaccines are needed; it relies on the standard medical recommendations.

If the legislation passes, California will be one of thirty-three states not allowing a personal belief exemption. California would be the third state allowing exemptions only when medically necessary.

So here’s the thing about the new bill—the only people who seem to be talking about it are the anti-vaxers. They’re the ones who are writing to California government to say, “Don’t do this”. So they’re the ones that the government is going to hear.

Wherever you are on this particular bill, now is the time to speak up and let your opinion be known. Who knows if or when there will be another bill like this? You can click this link to find your senator and select the “email” button to send them your thoughts, directly. You can also click this link to add your name to a petition to remove the “personal exemption” option. I just did this and it took only two minutes.

An expecting mom just told me this week, that she’s nervous about having a baby right now, in the midst of these epidemics. Then, another mom said she was still scared for her 11-month-old because he can’t get vaccinated against measles until he’s one. Is it acceptable for other parents’ decision not to vaccinate to endanger our children and babies?

Please take a stance on this—do it for our children.


If you enjoyed this article and want to see more from Mama Lovejoy, you can automatically receive articles in your Facebook newsfeed by “liking” the Mama Lovejoy Facebook page.


  1. Erica says:

    I find it interesting that people are eager to pull parental medical decisions away from parents after the Disneyland outbreak was started by a foreign traveller? Where is the outcry to stop tourists from travelling here without vaccinations? Otherwise, how could a mother feel safe in any public setting, esp in Southern California?
    Vaccinations are NOT side effect free and are not 100% safe. Not to mention, also not foolproof safe. Last year a large outbreak of whooping cough at a San Diego high school was spread by vaccinated children

    • Mama Lovejoy says:

      Erica, thanks for your comments. I really appreciate the perspectives and questions this is raising. The theory is that even if a disease were introduced, wherever it came from, that it wouldn’t spread if we had high enough herd immunity. It’s true that outbreaks can be started by unvaccinated foreign travelers. It’s also true that many folks who are vaccinated can get the diseases. Even if a vaccine is 99% effective (like MMR after the second dose), that 1% of non-responders represents a lot of people.

      Also, it’s true that there can be serious side effects in very, very rare cases. However, a person has a one-in-a-million chance of pneumonia, encephalitis (brain swelling) or death from the MMR vaccine vs. a one-in-sixteen chance of those if they get the measles.

      I’m going to repost your comments on the Mama Lovejoy Facebook page: I think this is an important enough topic that it’s worth talking about all of the different perspectives. Thanks again.

      • S.W. says:

        In my family I, my mom, my sister, my brother, and all my siblings children have had reactions. Reactions have all been different and have included both mild and rare. We also all have autoimmune issues. Honestly, with those odds could you blame me for not wanting to vaccinate my children? And, we cannot get a medical exemption based on family history. So, if SB277 passes then what choice would a family like ours have but to uproot and move out of state? The possibility of reaction is very high for my children and we cannot predict whether a reaction would be mild or severe. If any of my children were among those who get the more rare and very serious reactions who is going to take care of that child? I will. So, I feel that I should most certainly have the right to make a decision about vaccines for my children. I might not be able to stop them from getting sick naturally and I can accept that reality because people get sick all the time and we are all going to die (we are not guaranteed any particular number of days in our lives). But, to knowingly put something in my child’s body which is very likely to cause an unpredictable reaction seems to me unacceptable and something I could not be okay with. I also know that getting vaccines is not a guarantee that my children are protected from anything either. Even our doctors are in agreement with our family’s situation and our decision not to vaccinate. I know there are a number of other families also in similar situations as well who also do not qualify for medical exemptions even though our doctors fully support and advise against vaccination in our cases.

      • Ivan Thomson says:

        Serious side effects are not rare. Your marks outbreak that you call an epidemic was less than a hundredth of 1% of people in the state. The people affected with side effects is between 1% to 10%. The number of people infected with disease due to vaccines is not well studied, however, it is considerable. Vaccine manufacturers are legally protected with a secret court system. Why would that be? And now, you haven’t begun to address the ethical ramifications of forced medical procedures upon people which was ruled unethical in Nuremberg. You want to protect children? Then don’t their away their right to control their own bodies, because once you do your children will wake up in a society that controls their bodies with absolutely no rights to themselves, all justified by what’s good for the society, the cornerstone of Nazi socialism. Not a single vaccine insert in the world claims a vaccine to be safe for human use. Go read the list of known side effects that you want to force everyone to be subjected to. Go read about the secret vaccine court. Go read about what SB 277 really requires… It’s not just about child vaccines. Working adults and adult students will be vaccine mandated. It’s also not just current vaccines. It’s anything they want to mandate in the future. Only a blatant idiot would support such a thing.

        • Ivan Thomson says:

          Also go read about heard immunity and how it’s been debunked… For decades. The theory is bogus science.

          And by the way, I hope you’re willing to pay for all those people who are vaccine adverse but can’t obtain medical exemptions because they won’t be able to work or go to college. Are you aware adverse reaction reporting want even started until the 1980’s and to this day it’s seriously under reported by doctors.

          Are you aware that adverse reaction can be inherited. And there are no tests for it.

  2. Deana says:

    For every story the pro-vacc have, there are just as many stories of heart ache and grief of what has happened to a child that was vaccinated. Just a couple of weeks ago I read of a 4 month old infant that was dead 4 days after being vaccinated. The ME ruled the cause of death directly related to the vaccines. He died in the arms of a friend who was watching the baby for the mother. The family is suing in Vaccine Court. This is a tough topic. But, I feel that to not vaccinate is like playing Russian Ru-let with only one bullet (the if you get it bullet). And if you get vaccinated you play Russian Ru-let with 3 bullets. 1. Short term side effects from mild to death. 2. Long term side effects, which could be many. 3. you could still get the disease anyway and pass it on. I like the odds better with play Russian Ru-let with only 1 bullet. That is what the anti-vacc people are fighting for. On top of that we feel that the science provided is corrupted and backed by big money and the vacc companies are protected. No other drug on the market is protected this way. Why??? If all the pro vacc people did all the research that the anti-vacc people did, there just may be more anti than pro. Number one rule in all of this is follow the MONEY!!

    • JB says:

      Thank you for stating clearly the reality of this debate. Yes, I, too, choose Russian Roulette with one bullet. But I support the other 5 empty slots by living in one of the most rural counties of my state; eating all whole, unprocessed, home-made, organic food (no sugar, no wheat, no corn, no caffeine, no alcohol); and supporting myself and family w/healthy activities (no television, no video games, no cell phone) lots of walking and swimming in the pure spring water we drink. My son has never taken antibiotics or OTC meds. We have worked with a Classical Homeopathist for any health issue that rest, juice and time could not relieve. We also homeschool.
      I realize that this feels like a HUGE task to most families, but it is what it takes to lead a “natural” lifestyle that includes freedom from vaccines and all Western medicine. Once you buy into even a small portion, you must buy into it all.
      So, like you, and so many of my “anti-vax” friends, we always vote for freedom of choice. Choose the life you feel best for your family. I support all families in that.
      But if what is “best for your family” forces me to buy into someone else’s commercialized, pharmaceutical, sugar-laden, media-induced-fear-mongering lifestyle, then I will see you in court (or the Senate floor).

      Thanks again to Deanna and MamaLoveJoy!

  3. Nancy says:

    I haven’t decided how I feel about the new bill.

    But the self-righteousness of these anti-vax comments is nauseating.

    Drink all the spring water you want – without herd immunity your kids would contract many of these diseases. So, you’re welcome – parents who vaccinate literally make your false sense of security possible.

    Also the Russian Roulette analogy is statistically incorrect.

Leave a Reply