The overwhelming scientific evidence concludes vaccines are safe. Perhaps the most dramatic evidence of that comes not only from the scientific community but from the State of California.
Liberal states have been slow to require vaccines as evidenced by low vaccination rates in California, Colorado, Washington and Oregon. But recent outbreaks of measles at Disneyland have prompted California legislators to push for more vaccines.
This month a bill is advancing through the California legislature, amid impassioned pleas from parents and doctors, that would require all schoolchildren in the state to be vaccinated. The Wall Street Journal reports that parents would no longer be able to send unvaccinated children to school with waivers citing religious or personal beliefs. Exemptions would be available only for children with health problems.
This would increase the number of vaccinated children in school and improve “herd immunity” for those children who cannot take the vaccinations for health reasons. To achieve this “herd immunity” generally requires vaccination rates of 95% or better.
Opponents argue vaccines can be as dangerous as the diseases they aim to fight and that the bill would trample parental rights. These claims are unsubstantiated by scientific studies that have demonstrated numerous times the safety of the vaccines. Another study was reported in my last post, More Proof Vaccines Don’t Cause Autism.
Dean Blumberg, a pediatrician who testified on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the California Medical Association, said childhood vaccination has been so successful that it is easy to overstate their risks and dismiss the disease they prevent. Blumberg says,
“Unfortunately, there’s much misinformation about vaccine safety and effectiveness. Let me be clear: There is no scientific controversy about vaccine safety and vaccine effectiveness. . . This is not open to dispute among mainstream doctors and scientists.”
The dangers of these diseases are very real. The risk of serious neurological disease from the vaccines is only one in 365,000 but the risk of death from measles is 1 to 2 in 1,000 cases. Mumps can cause deafness, orchitis and oophoritis (inflammation of the testes or ovaries) and that can lead to sterility.
The California bill has passed out of the Senate Health Committee on a 6-2 vote. If the bill passes the legislature and is signed by the governor, California would join Mississippi and West Virginia as the only states with such strict vaccines rules. Not surprisingly, Mississippi leads the nation with the highest percentage of children vaccinated.
Similar efforts to reduce exemptions were proposed elsewhere after a measles outbreak in December that started at Disneyland and sickened more than 100 people across the U.S. and Mexico. In Oregon and Washington State, however, such proposals were rejected recently.
Opponents include liberal icons like Robert Kennedy, Jr., the nephew of President John F. Kennedy and son of former U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy has been promoting the film “Trace Amounts” and is editor of a book called “Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak,” linking autism to the vaccine preservative thimerosal. However, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the mercury-containing chemical has been removed from routine childhood vaccines since 2001. (Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.)
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, California currently is among 20 states that allow for exemptions based on personal belief and 48 that allow for religious exemptions. But these laws are changing as more and more states realize that protecting children with vaccinations is the right thing to do. Those who object should not jeopardize other children due to their unsubstantiated concerns about the safety of vaccines.