Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Liz Miller
Observer Staff Writer 

Unvaccinated Students Turned Away on First School Day in Sacramento

Legislation signed this summer eliminated religious or personal exemptions


August 21, 2016

Vaccinations are required for California students in both public and private schools.

A contentious law that passed this summer eliminated both personal and religious exemptions from vaccinations in California schools, and 145 Sacramento children missed all or part of their first day of the school year on Tuesday because of it.

Many of the children returned later on after their parents provided proper paperwork. Two clinics were open and available on school properties for parents wishing to vaccinate that day. The district says it is working to reach the other unvaccinated children on their rosters to see if the families need help.

Only children with a physician approved medical exemption can now attend either public or private schools in California without required immunization.

Sacramento is one of the first California districts to start classes this year, but the same scene is likely to play out in districts across the state over the next few weeks as families and schools scramble to adjust to the strict new legislation.

The law, introduced as a bill by Democratic Senators Richard Pan, a Sacramento pediatrician, and Benjamin Allen of Santa Monica, made California only the third state in the nation to deny exemption based on religious beliefs.

32 states now deny exemption based on personal moral beliefs.

Concern came from the exceedingly low rates of vaccination in some communities, and after an outbreak of measles among Disneyland visors that resulted in130 infections. Pertussis (whooping cough) has also made a comeback in recent years.

Some schools had less than 50% of their students fully vaccinated, a situation which prevents the so-called "herd effect" that protects those individuals who cannot receive the shots for medical reasons such as illness or allergy.

Anti-vaccination groups protested the passage of the law, saying it should be a parent's right to choose preventative medicine for their own child. Many of them believe that increased vaccinations make children more likely to have developmental disorders, particularly autism. Scientific research has found no such link.

In the end, public health benefits overruled the opinions of protesting parents.

The courts have made it very clear that no one has the right to spread disease within their community.

The right of the state to take action in the name of public health came to the colonies along with British Common Law, and was implemented in a powerful way almost as soon as the Constitution was ratified when the cities of Philadelphia and New York were cordoned off to prevent the spread of raging yellow fever epidemics. The sitting government was left isolated in Philadelphia, new Constitution in hand.

Every original state and each that was added afterward has acknowledged the power to pass and enforce laws for the health of the community, particularly those meant to prevent the spread of disease.

Exercise of that power has become somewhat lax over the last few decades, but outbreaks of disease remind us that the government we elect has the obligation to pass common-sense laws to maintain the health of our citizens.

The California legislature and governor have done their jobs, and the school children of Sacramento and all the other communities will be healthier for it.


Immunizations required to attend either public or private schools in California:

Immunizations required to enter Kindergarten:

• Polio

• Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis (DTaP)

• Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR)

• Hepatitis B

• Varicella (Chickenpox)

Immunization required for 7th grade:

Immunizations keep children healthy.

• Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis booster (Tdap)

• Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR)

Immunizations required to enter Child Care (depends on age when enrolling):

• Polio

• Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis (DTaP)

• Haemophilus influenzae type b

• Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR)

• Hepatitis B

• Varicella (Chickenpox)


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