San Franciscans and Californians should support the elimination of the public belief exemption (PBE) for vaccines to protect the health and safety of all Californians.
All credible sources agree: Vaccinations are safe, and necessary to keep our public healthy. In fact, the Supreme Court, in Jacobson v. Massachusetts, ruled that mandatory vaccines are allowed, with the understanding that public health concerns outweigh individual beliefs. Vaccinations are clearly a public health concern. According to the Centers for Disease Control, over the last 2 decades, vaccines prevented 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations, and 732,000 deaths, and saved $295 billion in direct medical costs and $1.3 trillion in societal costs.
To be clear, however, SB 277 doesn’t “force” vaccines. It simply gives parents a choice: either be a responsible citizen of the developed world and vaccinate or don’t participate in some of the things that are publically provided, such as school. That may not be a choice that some want to make, but it is, in fact, a choice. We wouldn’t allow our children to come to school with a gun because their personal and parental rights end when public safety and well-being begin, and we shouldn’t allow them to come to school unvaccinated for the same reason.
There are passionate arguments against this bill, citing many noncredible sources. And there is no question that the opposition is organized and very loud. But make no mistake: seventy-eight percent of Americans believe that all children should be vaccinated. And sixty-five percent think schools should be able to refuse enrollment to unvaccinated children. Ninety-two percent of physicians believe that it’s important for all recommended vaccines be given at the recommended times. Please do not be swayed by the relative loudness of the minority.
We know that creating obstacles to opting out deceases the voluntary opt-out rates. And we know that decreasing the opt-out rate increases herd immunity, protecting those with medical reasons, those too young to be vaccinated, and those with compromised immune systems from preventable diseases. Vaccination rates need to be above 92% to 95%, depending on disease, for herd immunity. California’s rate is less than 91%, and substantially lower in certain pockets such as the Bay Area and Los Angeles.
Measles was eliminated in this country in 2000, but it’s had a resurgence of more than 640 cases, including 100 here in California. Last year, California saw the worst whooping cough epidemic in 70 years with almost 10,000 cases, including the death of a baby. All thanks to people who opt out of vaccinations. Our children—my child—deserve better.
UPDATE, June 30, 2015: Governor Jerry Brown signed this bill into law!! Yay!