Vaccination bill gouges parental rights
By Katy Grimes
Discussion about the proper role of the Legislature and state government is never more important than when individual liberties and parental rights are under siege. Anytime the Legislature inserts itself into health care issues, individual rights are compromised.
A bill limiting parental decisions when it comes to the health care of children is going to be heard by the Legislature today, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly.
AB 2109, by Dr. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, will require that parents who choose to opt out of vaccinating their child, called a personal belief exemption, must obtain a signed legal document from a doctor stating that the parent has received medical information on the pros and cons of vaccines.
It sounds rather innocuous, but is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Inviting lawyers into the medical examination room between parents and doctors will force many doctors to refuse to sign off on the parent’s opt-out option, for fear of legal retribution.
According to Dr. Pan, “California is one of only 20 states that allows for a personal beliefs, or philosophical exemption, to school or childcare immunization requirements. Under current law, to exempt the child from the immunization requirements, a parent or guardian must only provide a signed written statement or sign their name to a two-sentence standard exemption statement on the back of the School Immunization Record. While parents do have a choice to exempt their children, they are not required to document their concerns about vaccines or affirm that they have reviewed fact-based, accurate information regarding the risks and benefits of vaccines and the risks of vaccine-preventable diseases.”
According to Dr. Bob Sears, a pediatrician in Orange County, “the largest study done to date on this issue (Dismissing the family who refuses vaccines: A study of pediatrician attitudes, Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Oct 2005) reveals that 39 percent of American pediatricians state they will dismiss patients from their office for non-compliance with vaccinations.”
Sears wrote in the Flash Report Monday that the implementation of AB 2109 is entirely contingent upon the false assumption that all pediatricians will sign off on a patient’s decision not to vaccinate. Sears said that based on the research, many doctors may be unwilling to sign the parental waiver.
Yet, despite the many benefits of vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control admits that between 3,000 and 4,500 severe vaccine reactions are reported every year in the United States. Some doctors say that the numbers of severe reactions to vaccinations are much higher than the CDC’s numbers.
Besides just the potential for severe reactions to vaccinations, many parents believe that vaccinations are at the root of the dramatic rise in childhood autism. For this reason, many parents are unnerved by Pan’s bill.
Increase in exemptions
The bill’s sponsors, The American Academy of Pediatrics, the California Medical Association and the Health Officers Association of California, state that the continued increase in personal belief exemptions and resultant decreases in community immunization rates “could have a significant impact on public safety and because PBEs are relatively easy to obtain,” and recommend strong support for AB 2109.
The current ease parents have in opting-out of vaccinations for children is why Pan wants to substantially stiffen up the process to make it more difficult, more ominous, and more costly as parents will end up paying for more doctor appointments, searching for any doctor to sign their opt-out form.
Without the vaccinations, parents will not be allowed to enroll children in public school. AB 2109 lacks any recourse for parents.
Sears argued what should be a personal freedom for families would become contingent on a third-party signature, which directly gives the physician ultimate power over their patient’s decision.
The opposition analysis for AB 2109 states, “This bill changes the current approach and inserts more bureaucracy into intimate medical decisions. The Health Advocacy in the Public Interest indicates that parents must have the freedom to make their own decisions with respect to the vaccination of their children.”
“Numerous letters from individuals, parents, and practitioners state that this bill is an intrusion into the personal freedom of parents to make health care decisions for their children. They state that this measure causes undue burden on parents, discriminates against families utilizing complementary and alternative medicine; and promotes more vaccine use and profit from the pharmaceutical industry.”
Expect to see expenditures and higher costs associated with the bill as well. “If the Commission on State Mandates determines that this act contains costs mandated by the state, reimbursement to local agencies and school districts for those costs shall be made,” the bill states.
The bill would result in preventing children from entering school, violates parental rights, and creates a path for more money to schools to cover associated costs. This is what a bad bill looks like.
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