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.
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