To vaccinate or not to vaccinate? This has been a long debated question, and as children head back to school and parents are required to present proof of vaccination or an exemption slip to enroll them, it is a hot topic this time of year.
Some worry about the long-term effects of vaccines on children and cite parents' rights and beliefs as a reason to opt out, while many health officials push for vaccines to prevent outbreaks of harmful childhood diseases. With the debate, state governments have looked into the exemption process with some adding some extra steps for parents hoping to avoid vaccinating their children.
California is the latest to join these ranks. This week, the California Senate passed AB 2109, a bill that would require parents to meet with a physician to discuss the risks before being granted a vaccination exemption for their child. KQED reports the bill's sponsor, who is also a pediatrician, Richard Pan saying the bill doesn't mandate vaccination or take away parents rights but more simply makes sure parents are making an "informed decision":
“Parents become uncertain. They’re not sure what they should do,” he told [KQED] in an interview. “They’re being told their children should be immunized but at the same time, they’re seeing scary stuff out on the internet.”
Opponents of the bill, KQED reports, believe this extra step will add to healthcare costs and still infringes on parental rights.
Democratic Sen. Lois Wolk of Davis said it's a matter of public health and the waivers could be obtained during routine visits.
Washington State, which instituted a similar requirement in the exemption process last year, is reporting this week that fewer parents are opting their children out of vaccines now. KPLU reports that just two years ago the state had the highest number of parents deciding not to vaccinate. Now, Washington falls in eighth in the country for exemptions.
Overall, a recent report by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention released this week, found the number of vaccinated kindergarteners in the 2011-2012 school year met the federal government's target. At the same time though, US News and World Report states the number of exemptions, according to the CDC, has risen slightly, with Arkansas seeing the largest increase of parents opting out.
As for AB 2109 moving forward. The bill will head back to the full Assembly for a final vote and from there would need to be signed or vetoed by the governor within 30 days.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.