Bill To Limit Vaccine Exemptions Moves A Step Closer In California

Originally published on April 9, 2015 2:58 pm

A California bill that would allow students to opt out of mandatory school vaccinations only if they have a medical condition that justifies an exemption is one step closer to becoming law, though it still has a long way to go. The bill was introduced in the California Senate in response to a measles outbreak at Disneyland in late December that's now linked to almost 150 infections.

Among several hundred supporters and protesters outside the Capitol building in Sacramento on Wednesday, the bill sparked a debate about individual rights and responsibilities.

Opponents wore American flags. One child held a sign that said, "Force my veggies, not vaccines." They say eliminating the personal belief exemption threatens their ability to do what's right for their kids.

"I think that everybody should be able to make their own choice," said Lisa Cadrein of Los Angeles. She fears vaccines would harm her daughter.

"I am afraid that her big beautiful blue eyes will not focus on me anymore, and she won't be the kid that she is," Cadrein said.

But scientific studies show no link between vaccines and autism spectrum disorder, and inside the hearing, parents also talked about protecting their kids — from children who aren't vaccinated. Democratic Sen. Lois Wolk is on the Senate Health Committee and spoke on behalf of the pro-vaccine parents.

"Our individual rights aren't without limits, and in this particular case, your insistence on your right really could harm my children or my grandchildren," Wolk said.

The health committee in California's Senate passed the bill 6-2 on Wednesday. That was just the first step — the proposed legislation has many more hearings before it could become law. Meanwhile, Washington, Oregon and North Carolina have also considered legislation to limit families' rights to opt out of mandatory vaccinations, and all of those efforts have stalled.

This story is part of NPR's reporting partnership with Capital Public Radio and Kaiser Health News.

Copyright 2015 Capital Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.capradio.org.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Here in California, hundreds of demonstrators gathered at the state Capitol yesterday. At issue, a parent's ability to refuse vaccinations for a child based on personal beliefs. A new bill would eliminate that option. Capital Public Radio's Pauline Bartolone reports.

PAULINE BARTOLONE, BYLINE: The proposal is to require all kids who attend school in California to be vaccinated, unless they have a medical condition that justifies an exemption. The bill was introduced in response to the measles outbreak at Disneyland that's now linked to almost 150 infections. But yesterday, the bill sparked a debate about individual rights and responsibilities.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: We want our freedom.

BARTOLONE: Outside the Capitol building, opponents wore American flags. Kids held signs saying things like force my veggies, not my vaccines. Parents said eliminating the personal belief exemption threatens their ability to do what's right for their kids.

LISA CADREIN: I think that everybody should be able to make their own choice.

BARTOLONE: Lisa Cadrein of Los Angeles fears vaccines would harm her daughter.

CADREIN: I am afraid that her big, like, beautiful blue eyes will, like, not focus on me anymore, and she won't be the kid that she is.

BARTOLONE: But scientific studies show no link between vaccines and autism spectrum disorder. And inside the hearing, parents also talked about protecting their kids from children who aren't vaccinated. Democratic Senator Lois Wolk is on the Senate Health Committee.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SENATOR LOIS WOLK: Our individual rights aren't without limits. And in this particular case, your insistence on your right really could harm my children or my grandchildren.

BARTOLONE: The committee passed the bill, but that was just the first step. It still has many more hearings before it could become law. Washington, Oregon and North Carolina also considered legislation to limit opting out and all of those efforts have stalled. For NPR News, I'm Pauline Bartolone in Sacramento. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.