by Diane Hawkins Summers
I just spent the whole day June 9th in Sacramento witnessing the California’s Assembly Health Committee’s public meeting and vote concerning the new children’s vaccine bill. Let’s start with the morning rally. I would estimate the crowd to be at least 1,000 strong, many wearing red t-shirts with children in tow. Hand- made signs stated the following: NO FORCED VACCINATIONS; WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO A FREE PUBLIC EDUCATION; THIS IS A HUMAN & CIVIL RIGHT ISSUE; and, TODAY IS FOR THE FREEDOM OF CHOICE.
So what is this all about? There were many inspiring speeches. Dr. Barbara Loe Fisher, President of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), a non-profit charity foundation really stood out. She stated, “We will not give up our human rights for our civil rights. We will not give up the human right to informed consent to medical risk taking in order to exercise our civil right to an education and medical care and employment.”
SB 277, authored by Senator Dr. Pam presents a new law mandating all children attending public education in kindergarten and 7th grade to show proof of vaccines which will be determined by the state. If the parents object to the vaccine their children cannot attend public schools. Even with an amendment that a child can have a waiver with a doctor’s release, many in the “NO” camp were upset that not all doctors would comply with the parent’s wishes especially if they were with a HMO insurance program.
As the day went on, the “NO on 277” group continued to come in droves. The committee room was so packed that many of us needed to watch the meeting on closed circuit TV. The inquiries from the assembly members showed a lot of concerns for situations where many children have had allergic reactions from the vaccine, even putting some in wheel chairs. Others claimed the onset of autism. Many had sincere reports of parents refusing siblings to get vaccines due to a concern that a genetic propensity lead to the onset of the negative vaccine reaction.
The “YES on 277” group lauded the value of vaccines which eradicate polio, small pox and other dreaded diseases. And, it was mentioned that the fear around the recent outbreak of measles, traced to Disneyland, which spread to 130 people, actually instigated the need for this law. None of the measles victim died, by the way.
Underlying it all from the “NO” group was the speculation that the real profiteers would be the pharmaceutical companies. The line of profit would certainly increase with such a demand. Others argued that California already had a high immunized rate of over 90%. And, even if an outbreak were to happen we have very competent contamination procedures in place. Lastly, the “NO” group really felt they are losing their right of a free public education with the classroom experience doomed for many children.
Some parents pointed out to me that kids not vaccinated in home study programs would still generate ADA or their average daily attendance money from the state for their schools. The only recourse may be to totally boycott school attendance.
As one congressman summed it up, “It’s not about if vaccines are good or bad, it is should all children in California be vaccinated? This bill just does not seem to be a necessity. No shots means no school for way too many and it is not going to help disease control.” After all, it was pointed out that SB 2109 just implemented last year which demands written informed parental consent has not had a chance to show results.
Towards the end, the attorney for the NO group stated that refusing public education to children would not pass constitutional muster. He indicated this whole issue would end up in the courts. After three hours of robust debate, the opinion count began from the observers. The “Yes” people went first which only lasted about 15 minutes. The “NO” group on the other hand took 1 ½ hours. Their overwhelming line wound all around the building. In the end, the vote was 12 to 6 to pass it through to an assembly vote. Most that voted for it were Democrats and the “NO’S” were Republicans. The representative from Escondido, Marie Waldron voted no. The final vote is expected to happen next week. Then it will go to Governor Brown for his signature.
I spoke to Dr. Fisher on the way out. Her main concern is that 30 other states have similar bills on their ducats. She feels in the end that this whole issue will be the big civil right concern of this decade. According to the drama I witnessed today, I agree.