Hundreds of California parents went to the State Capitol to stop a bill that would eliminate the so-called "personal belief" exemption for childhood vaccinations. The bill would require children in California to be vaccinated unless they had a medical reason for exemption. It would require parents who refuse to vaccinate their children to home school them.
The bill looked like it would be passed with no issues until large groups of antivaccination parents showed up in Sacramento. It has been called one of the harshest public backlashes in California legislative history. The bill has now been put on hold for a week.
California currently allows parents to exempt their children from the vaccinations needed for enrollment in public school for any reason. Other states allow personal belief exemptions or only allow exemptions for religious reasons or medical reasons. Only Mississippi and Virginia would have requirements as strict as the bill would mandate.
The bill was written by State Senator Richard Pan, a physician, in response to the large outbreak of measles linked to Disneyland that started in December. Pan has received death threats over the bill.
Most of the 131 cases of measles in the state were in people who were either unvaccinated or had had only one dose of the vaccine. Currently, more than two dozen counties in California have vaccination rates that are too low to provide what is called herd immunity, which would protect those who cannot be immunized for medical reasons.
Measles is a viral infection that spreads extremely easily. Symptoms usually appear with 7 to 14 days of exposure. The signature red rash that covers most of the body appears two to three days after the first signs. Usually measles lasts 7 to 10 days unless it is complicated by a bacterial infection or another viral infection, such as pneumonia. Measles can cause seizures, pneumonia, hearing loss, vomiting, diarrhea, brain infection, eye problems and even death.