California Approves Strict New Vaccine Requirements for Children

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June 30, 2015

California now has one of the strictest vaccination laws in the country, after Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed legislation that eliminates the state’s personal and religious belief exemptions.

The law requires children who attend a school or daycare center in California to be vaccinated for childhood diseases like measles, mumps and whooping cough. Children who are unable to receive vaccines due to an immune-system deficiency or certain allergies could still acquire a medical exemption from the requirements.

While public health officials and supporters of the law say it would improve immunization rates and strengthen herd immunity — protecting those who cannot get vaccinated — critics argue that it curtails a parent’s right to make choices for the safety of their child.

“The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases,” Brown said in a statement on Tuesday. “While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.”

The legislation was introduced in the aftermath of a measles outbreak at Disneyland that infected more than 150 people across multiple states, and amid concerns about low vaccination rates in certain communities in California.

The movement to eliminate such exemptions found a public face in Rhett Krawitt, a seven-year-old boy whose treatments for leukemia left his immune system too weak to accept vaccines. As his mother, Jodi Krawitt explained in the below scene from the FRONTLINE investigation, The Vaccine War:

When he was first diagnosed he was pretty much pulled out of society. We avoided highly concentrated groups of people. When we went out, we wore a mask. And we really did limit his exposure. And we just were so excited for the day when he could start kindergarten so he could have that sense of socialization and community and learning.

 

But California is just one battleground in the rapidly changing landscape around vaccine safety. For more about the science and politics of vaccines, you can watch The Vaccine War in full here:


Priyanka Boghani

Priyanka Boghani, Deputy Digital Editor, FRONTLINE

Twitter:

@priyankaboghani

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