Baby cries after receiving a vaccine. (Dan Hatton: Flickr)
Baby cries after receiving a vaccine. (Dan Hatton: Flickr)

Update: Gov. Jerry Brown signed this bill into law on Sept. 30, 2012. 

California has one of the more lenient approaches for parents who wish to opt out of vaccinations for their school-age children. While state law requires that children must be vaccinated against various illnesses (think polio, measles, tetanus) to enroll in school, California parents can opt out of vaccines simply by filing a short statement stating that immunizations are contrary to their beliefs. It’s known as a personal belief exemption.

This week in Sacramento, the Senate passed AB 2109, a bill to make this exemption a little tougher. Under the bill, parents who don’t wish to have their children vaccinated must meet with a health care provider to talk about risks and benefits of vaccines. The provider can be a doctor, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, osteopathic physician, naturopathic doctor or a credentialed school nurse. The provider must sign a form and the parent must still provide a written statement.

Assemblyman Richard Pan of Sacramento, a pediatrician himself, sponsored the bill. He pointed to misinformation as a driver of parents opting out of vaccines. “Parents become uncertain. They’re not sure what they should do,” he told me today in an interview. “They’re being told their children should be immunized but at the same time, they’re seeing scary stuff out on the internet.”

Pan noted that the bill does not mandate vaccination of all children. “This bill does not take away the parent’s right to make a decision about whether to get their child immunized or not. We just want to make sure it’s an informed decision.”

Critics counter that parents who opt out are already informed. They say that this bill adds to health care costs by requiring extra medical appointments to discuss vaccines.

A similar bill passed 18 months ago in Washington state. After it took effect, the opt-out rate there dropped by about 25 percent. So at least some people are making a different decision after meeting with a health care provider. Public health officials expect the opt out rate will go down further this year.

The personal belief exemption rate in California is much lower than Washington’s — 2.3 percent for the 2010-2011 school year. But it’s not an even distribution statewide. In Los Angeles county, for example, the rate is 1.58 percent. But several counties in northern California — Trinity, Nevada, Siskiyou — have opt-out rates exceeding 12 percent. Public health officials say when more than 10 percent of children are not vaccinated, it puts a community at risk. Of special concern are people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients or people with HIV. Another group at strong risk are newborn babies.

Babies cannot be vaccinated against some illnesses until they are six months old. In 2010, California had a whooping cough epidemic. There were 9.000 reported cases and 10 babies died.

AB 2109 heads back to the Assembly for a final vote, which must happen before the end of the legislative session next Friday. From there, the governor will have 30 days to sign or veto the bill.

New Requirement for Vaccine Exemption Passed by Senate 23 August,2013Lisa Aliferis

  • Cj

    Absolutely appalling and unconstitutional. Get these unconstitutional tyrants out of our government already! Who do they think they are to take away our constitutional and parental rights?!?!? Time to take away their jobs!!

  • Jane Adams

    I am so glad this is happening! Let’s not have another polio epidemic based on Internet-generated misinformation.

  • Informed parent

    I think this article seriously undermines the “anti-vax” community. It’s not like we are only looking at things said on forums on the internet; we’re looking at toxic vaccine ingredients, which include formedahyde, aluminum and a mercury-based perservative (Thermasol which has not been phased out of all vaccines), or are objecting to the morally questionable ingredients such as aborted fetal tissue. We’re looking at the number of patients who get sick even after being vaccinated–like the 90% of whooping cough patients. We have studied that TRUE immunity can only be acheived if an illness goes through the normal channels: respiratory, gastrointestional, and genitourinal. We are noticing that vaccines lead to more vaccines–like how the outbreak of shingles among kids vaccinated for chickenpox only led to a shingles vaccine. We are reading the heartbreaking stories of parents of vaccine-damaged kids, the ones who took toddlers who were already talking and eating by themselves for shots, and suddenly regressed only to be diagnosed autistic weeks later. You can question the articles, books, and studies we have looked over, but what you really should be questioning is why the medical community hasn’t done any study which looks at the efficacy and carcinogenity of the whole vaccine series and not just a select few. You should be asking why there is a government sponsored compensation program for victims of vaccine damage rather than holding the manufacturers responsible. And mostly, you should question why there are no mainstream news articles on how Merck lied about the efficacy of their MMR vaccine.

  • EJ

    Lame. Additional medical costs to speak with a professional before we can sign a waiver at school?? Great! My children have medi-CAL… the state can pay for that too! We’ll still opt out of vaccinations…

  • InalienableWrights

    What’s next in the peoples republic of CA. Mandatory abortions that you can opt out of by taking a $600 – 40 hour course? This is freedom?

  • The unvaccinated are not putting the community at risk. Herd immunity is only valid for naturally acquired diseases. Vaccine induced herd immunity is a myth.

    And why should we have to beg doctors and nurses to be permitted to refrain from having our children jabbed and injected with toxic substances? Our children are OUR children.
    Unfortunately medical students normally study about vaccines for only a short time at university and qualified doctors often don’t take the time to even read through package inserts.

    Information received by medical students and doctors is normally strongly influenced by the pharmaceutical industry.

    In comparison it is often the case that vaccine critics have spent hundreds of hours, even many years independently studying vaccines and know far more than the average doctor.

    We are many who are frustrated, unimpressed and tired of trying to ask about and discuss with doctors about vaccine ingredients, safety statistics, potential long term adverse events including carcinogenicity, synergy, interactions, secondary transmission, concomitant administration, etc.

    It is often blatantly obvious that the average doctor has minimal knowledge about the complex issue of vaccination.

  • stop the misinformation

    What a bunch of BS this new bill it. The vaccine industry is all about big pharma making $$$. To the poster talking about polio, you need to read the story about the epidemic of people in India getting paralysed after the polio vaccine started getting administered there. Vaccines are 100x more dangerous than just letting your immune system do what God intended it to do.

  • Pingback: 95 Percent Of American Parents Sacrifice Their Young Children To The Vaccine Industry | Occupy Kuala Lumpur()


Lisa Aliferis

Lisa Aliferis is the founding editor of KQED’s State of Health blog. Since 2011, she’s been writing and editing stories for the site. Before taking up blogging, she toiled for many years (more than we can count) producing health stories for television, including Dateline NBC and San Francisco’s CBS affiliate, KPIX-TV. She also wrote up a handy guide to the Affordable Care Act, especially for Californians. Her work has been honored for many awards. Most recently she was a finalist for “Best Topical Reporting” from the Online News Association. You can follow her on Twitter: @laliferis

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