I'm a big fan of a piece of pending California legislation, AB 2109, that is designed to increase vaccination rates among children enrolling in school and daycare. Right now, instead of showing vaccination records upon enrollment, parents who have chosen not to vaccinate are permitted to sign an exemption form stating they have made their choice because of their personal beliefs. A post on About.com's Pediatrics blog explains how the new law, if passed, will change that:
Instead of simply signing a personal belief vaccine exemption form on their own, parents will be required to have a written statement signed by a health practitioner that says the parent was given information about the benefits and risks of immunizations and the risks of certain vaccine-preventable diseases.
... "With the increase in outbreaks of common vaccine preventable diseases in California and nationally, now more than ever, parents need to get the right information about vaccines before exempting their children from immunization," said Jeff Goad, Pharm D., President of the California Immunization Coalition. "This legislation simply mandates that parents receive accurate information about the risks and benefits of vaccines and the diseases they prevent before making decisions about not vaccinating their children."
I feel strongly about this legislation in part because I write about the kids that this law is designed to protect: infants who are too young to receive vaccinations and children whose medical conditions make vaccination unsafe. Kids whose lives have been saved by organ transplantation, for instance, can't be vaccinated because of the immune-suppressing drugs they must take to keep their transplants healthy. These children rely on the "herd immunity" conferred by high vaccination rates to protect them from potentially deadly infectious diseases such as measles and whooping cough. The new law would ensure that parents will learn about their role in building "herd immunity" - the importance of vaccinating to protect not just their own kids but also others - before they choose to forgo vaccines.
That leads to the second reason I feel strongly about this legislation: I'm a mom. Interviewing families whose children are dangerously ill has given me a real appreciation for how fortunate I am to have a healthy child. I think it's part of my civic duty to make sure my toddler won't spread germs that endanger the lives of the most fragile members of our community.
If you live in California, here's a source for information about how to support the pending law.
Previously: “Herd immunity” causes dramatic drop in infant chicken pox, Washington state starts school year with tougher requirements for vaccine exemptions, How to save $83 billion? Vaccinate and Unvaccinated children may pose a public health risk
Photo by Jill A. Brown