Today, a ground-breaking new bill will face its final committee vote, before being put to the full legislature. The bill aims to remove a loophole in the current vaccination law that allows vaccine-skeptical doctors to exempt children from vaccinations as they please.
The new bill was conceived by Richard Pan, Democratic California State senator and pediatrician. In 2015, he introduced a bill that prevents children from avoiding vaccinations based on belief, meaning that exemptions are now only available to those who cannot be vaccinated due to medical conditions such as a compromised immune system. The bill was passed following a measles outbreak at Disneyland in December 2014 where the majority of those infected had not been vaccinated.
California’s vaccination laws apply to children who attend public schools and require them to receive certain vaccines such as MMR, which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella.
However, it seems certain vaccine-skeptical doctors are all too willing to let children avoid jabs based on medical grounds, as instances of these exemptions have risen since the 2015 bill was passed into law. If signed into law, the new bill will allow medical exemptions to be tracked and reviewed by the State, and any doctors handing out a suspicious number of medical exemptions would be investigated by the California Medical Board. One doctor, Dr Tara Zandvliet, was found to have provided almost a third of the 486 medical exemptions issued in San Diego since June 2015.
Despite the fact that Pan’s bills aim to protect the health of children and improve the state’s herd immunity, he has received death threats, been compared to Hitler, and been the subject of racist, aggressive online posts. A man even filmed himself approaching Pan and pushing him from behind in the street. Still, a father of two and dedicated doctor, Pan has not been swayed by the hostile threats of anti-vaxxers as he knows how essential vaccines are to public health.
“We talk about the four horsemen of the apocalypse: death, war, famine, plague and disease. Yet people don’t really believe in infectious disease anymore, and that’s foolish,” he told The Guardian in a recent interview. “If we don’t maintain our community immunity, our shield against these diseases, they will come back.”
Thanks to the tireless work of the anti-vax community, who employ tactics such as targeting pregnant women on social media and providing them with false, alarmist information, measles cases in the US have soared this year. By April 26, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had reported 704 measles cases across the US. That’s the largest number in a single year since 1994.
Time and time again, science has proved vaccines to be safe. In fact, being unvaccinated poses much more of a risk to your health than getting a shot. If you’re not convinced, take a look at this heartbreaking letter to anti-vaxxers written by children’s author Roald Dahl following the death of his young daughter.
Hopefully, we’ll see Pan’s bill pass into law in the near future, with other states and nations following suit.