Tag: vaccine laws

Is California Considering the Strictest Vaccine Law in the Country?

California is close to passing a new vaccine law, SB 276, that will help close a loophole that has allowed doctors to write inappropriate medical exemptions for vaccines.

SB276 in California will not be the strictest vaccine law in the country.
SB276 in California will not be the strictest vaccine law in the country.

But is SB 276 the strictest vaccine law in the country?

Is California Considering the Strictest Vaccine Law in the Country?

To be sure, California is one of the few states that doesn’t allow non-medical exemptions. But that was accomplished with SB 277, a vaccine law that eliminated personal belief vaccine exemptions in California back in 2015.

So why are they back with a new vaccine law?

Do you know why California needs a stricter vaccine law?
Do you know why California needs a stricter vaccine law?

Again, too many doctors were writing inappropriate medical exemptions.

But far from becoming the strictest vaccine law in the country, SB 276 simply catches California up with a few other states that don’t allow non-medical exemptions.

Several states require approval of medical exemptions, which can  help cut down on abuse.
Several states require approval of medical exemptions, which can help cut down on abuse.

I say catch-up, because unlike California under SB 277, these states have strict rules about what counts as a medical exemption.

Doctors in these states can’t abuse the system and write unnecessary or fake medical exemptions for kids whose parents are simply scared to get their kids vaccinated.

Which states?

West Virginia and Mississippi are the main states that have not allowed non-medical exemptions.

“Requests for a medical exemption from vaccine requirements shall be reviewed and approved or denied by the State Immunization Officer. “

West Virginia Medical Exemptions Information

They have recently been joined by New York and Maine.

“May be detrimental to the child’s health means that a physician has determined that a child has a medical contraindication or precaution to a specific immunization consistent with ACIP guidance or other nationally recognized evidence-based standard of care.”

New York Codes, Rules and Regulations Section 66-1.1

But since all medical exemptions in California, under SB276, won’t have to be approved, California is hardly considering the strictest vaccine law in the country.

More on Vaccine Laws

Vaccines and Homeschooling Myths

Do many parents homeschool their kids because they don’t want to get them vaccinated and comply with vaccination laws?

Vaccines and Homeschooling Myths

Opponents to a vaccine law in California that removed personal belief vaccine exemptions, SB277, claimed that it would lead all children currently receiving personal belief exemptions to leave those schools and become homeschoolers.

One problem with this idea is that even though 32 states don’t allow personal belief vaccine exemptions, avoiding vaccines laws is not a top reason for why most parents choose to homeschool their kids.

“Parents cite a number of different reasons for choosing to homeschool, including concerns about the school environment and desires to provide religious/moral instruction.15 In fact, a Department of Education study says that 38.4 percent of respondents claim they are homeschooling for religious reasons,16 while Christopher Klicka suggests in his book, The Right to Home School, that it is closer to 85 percent.”

Khalili et al on Off the grid: vaccinations among homeschooled children

Instead, most parents homeschool because of:

  • academic reasons – thinking they can provide a better education for their kids at home and dissatisfaction with public or private school
  • family reasons – such as a child with special needs, not being able to get into the right school, transportation issues, or simply wanting more family time
  • religious reasons – including providing religious instruction at home
  • social reasons – including negative social activity and exposures at public and private schools

The availability of virtual education, cyber schools, and charter homeschools has likely also been a factor in some parents choosing to homeschool their kids.

What about vaccines?

In one article, Homeschooling parents’ practices and beliefs about childhood immunizations, only five parents (4%) included a desire not to vaccinate children as a reason for homeschooling.

Also, homeschooling rates are about the same in every state, just over 3% of students. A few outliers include Delaware (2.1%), North Carolina (7.7%), Pennsylvania (1.1%), West Virginia (4.6%), and Wisconsin (1.6%).

Of these states, only West Virginia doesn’t allow non-medical exemptions. But neither does Mississippi, which has very average homeschooling rates (3%).

Are Anti-vaxxers Turning to Homeschooling?

If anti-vaxxers are truly turning to homeschooling to avoid getting their kids vaccinated, we might have expected to see it happen in 2015, when California passed SB 277. That law eliminated non-medical vaccine exemptions and has been in effect since the 2016-2017 school year.

Orange County was the site of several large measles outbreaks before SB 277 took effect.
Orange County was the site of several large measles outbreaks before SB 277 took effect.

Although California is dealing with fake medical exemptions, there has not been a lot of evidence that many folks are homeschooling, leaving schools, or leaving the state after SB277 because they now have had to vaccinate and protect their kids.

“The law, however, does not apply to children who are home-schooled, a loophole that parents seem to be increasingly exploiting. Over the past three years, the number of kindergartners who were home-schooled and did not have their shots quadrupled, according to a Times analysis of state data.”

Parents who won’t vaccinate their kids turning to home-schooling in California, data show

While there were more homeschoolers last year in California (3%), the rise in homeschooling in California is also being seen in many states without new vaccine laws.

“Home-schooling mothers were concerned about SB-277 but did not report that it was directly impacting their children, their vaccine decisions, or reason to home school.”

McDonald et al on Exploring California’s new law eliminating personal belief exemptions to childhood vaccines and vaccine decision-making among homeschooling mothers in California

And, according to the Los Angeles Times, only “1.2% of the state’s kindergartners were home-schooled and unvaccinated in the last school year.”

The Homeschool Vaccine Loophole

It is also important to note that many states already have laws requiring homeschooled students to be vaccinated!

So yes, it is correct to say that the parents who are switching to homeschooling to avoid vaccinating and protecting their kids are exploiting a loophole.

“Submit proof of vaccination and receipt of any health services or examinations as required by law.”

Home Schooling in Tennessee

Interestingly, North Carolina, with one of the highest rates of homeschoolers, requires that homeschooled children be vaccinated.

Is being able to homeschool without vaccines a loophole that will have to be closed?

“And though most of their schooling may take place at home, many are part of programs that meet several times a week with other students. If one contracted a disease such as measles, they could still spread it at the park, or the grocery store, or anywhere they come into contact with other people, said Dr. James Cherry, a UCLA expert on pediatric infectious diseases.”

Parents who won’t vaccinate their kids turning to home-schooling in California, data show

It will likely depend if we end up seeing outbreaks among clusters of unvaccinated homeschoolers…

“During the six weeks after the gathering, a total of 34 cases of measles were confirmed. Of the patients with confirmed measles, 94 percent were unvaccinated, 88 percent were less than 20 years of age, and 9 percent were hospitalized. Of the 28 patients who were 5 to 19 years of age, 71 percent were home-schooled. “

Parker et al on Implications of a 2005 measles outbreak in Indiana for sustained elimination of measles in the United States.

Few people will remember the 2005 measles outbreak in Indiana that occurred mostly among intentionally unvaccinated homeschoolers and cost over $167,000 to contain. At the time, it was “the largest documented outbreak of measles in the United States since 1996.”

And it is likely that few people know about the two unvaccinated homeschooled kids in Oklahoma who got tetanus in 2012, including an 8-year-old who was in the ICU for 18 days…

What to Know About Vaccines and Homeschooling

Parents who homeschool their kids should get their kids vaccinated and protected on time and on schedule and follow all of the other AAP recommendations for preventative health care.

More on Vaccines and Homeschooling Myths

The VACCINES Act

A lot of folks have been saying that new Federal vaccines laws were coming.

Instead, we have just been seeing more and more cases of measles.

The VACCINES Act

Well, we might finally be getting a new Federal vaccine law, but it isn’t the kind of law that will force people to get vaccinated that anti-vaccine folks have been warning us about.

Rep. Schrier with the AAP Executive Committee, who urge passage of the VACCINES Act and federal funding for vaccine hesitancy surveillance at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Rep. Schrier with the AAP Executive Committee, who urge passage of the VACCINES Act and federal funding for vaccine hesitancy surveillance at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Instead, the Vaccine Awareness Campaign to Champion Immunization Nationally and Enhance Safety (VACCINES) Act, which was recently introduced by Representative Kim Schrier (D-Wash.) will simply help to increase public awareness of the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

“Vaccines were one of the greatest medical accomplishments of the 20th century and have been proven safe and effective at preventing diseases that once killed or greatly harmed people around the world.

As a pediatrician, I understand that parents want to do what they think is best for their children and some do not vaccinate because of unfounded fears. We are now seeing outbreaks of diseases like measles, which was considered eliminated 19 years ago, in part because of an anti-vaccine campaigns around the country. This bill will make sure that parents have access to facts about vaccines, so they can make an informed decision.”

Rep. Kim Schrier

The VACCINES Act will:

While I’m pretty sure the CDC could already do all of these things already without a new law, hopefully it will provide the extra funding and resources to actually get it done.

Tell your U.S. representative to consider co-sponsoring the VACCINES Act and help get this bill passed.

More on the VACCINES Act

Remembering the Measles Epidemics of the 1990s

A lot of folks are talking about how we are seeing record numbers of measles cases this year, the most since we declared the end to the endemic spread of measles in the United States in 2000.

Believe it or not though, the record goes back further than that.

We have already seen the most cases since 1994.

That’s a 25 year record!

Remembering the Measles Epidemics of the 1990s

Do not leave your child unprotected!

And trust me, we don’t want to surpass any records beyond that!

If we do break those records, reaching thousands of cases this year, then we will reach epidemic levels of measles.

And many of us who know what that means, remembering that there were 55,622 cases of measles and 123 deaths in the United States between 1989 and 1991, a time when we had good nutrition, hygiene, sanitation, and health care…

What else did we have?

A lot of unvaccinated kids!

But we learned our lesson, got more kids vaccinated, and eliminated the endemic spread of measles.

We even got to a record low of measles cases, just 37 cases in 2004!

Will we ever beat that record?

Remember when our state Legislatures worked to protect us from infectious diseases, instead of trying to pass laws that make it easier for kids to skip or delay their vaccines?

And then parents forgot how bad measles could be and that made it easier to believe in all of the misinformation of people like Andrew Wakefield, Bob Sears, Jenny McCarthy, and the new breed of anti-vaccine social media influencers who are scaring parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

Long story short, measles is back

Fortunately, there are many people who remember and won’t let us repeat the mistakes of the past.

Many parents remember and they vaccinate and protect their kids.

Most pediatricians remember.

We remember and know that vaccines are safe, with few risks, and are obviously necessary. And we don’t want to wait until people start to die before more parents vaccinate their kids.

If you don’t remember what it was like when everyone had measles, read some of the stories below…

More on the Measles Epidemics of the 1990s