Earlier this year, outbreaks of the measles prompted a national conversation about vaccination requirements. Many parents in recent years have declined to have their children vaccinated, citing personal or religious objections. In response, some public health advocates have pushed for lawmakers to remove the personal/religious exemption from vaccination mandates.
In California, proposed legislation would do just that. Religion News Service reports:
Authored by [Senator Richard] Pan and Democratic Senator Ben Allen of Santa Monica, the bill would end the so-called personal beliefs exemption in California’s vaccination law, which allows parents to opt out if they have religious or other opposition to vaccination. It would still allow parents to opt out if a doctor says the child should not be vaccinated for medical reasons.
All U.S. states require vaccinations for children entering school unless they have a medical reason to avoid the shots, such as a weak immune system.
Opposition from parents, many of them affluent and well-educated, have managed to kill similar bills introduced in the wake of the Disneyland outbreak, including one in Oregon.
As the BJC’s Holly Hollman wrote in a column on the subject, “religious freedom does not require . . . exemptions that harm the state’s most important interests.” No state interest would seem to be more important than public health, especially with regard to children. While a state may choose to provide a personal exemption from vaccination laws, the freedom of religion does not demand it.
You can read Senate Bill 277 here. A hearing in the state Senate Education Committee is scheduled for today.