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Stanford University School of Medicine

Vaccines in California: Stanford health policy researcher weighs in

Kids playOn July 1, California’s new child vaccination law went into effect, sparking a federal lawsuit by opponents of the bill who claim the vaccine mandate is unconstitutional.

Under the new law, all children must receive recommended vaccines before attending schools or daycare centers in California. Medical exemptions are allowed for children who are not healthy enough to be vaccinated, but parents can no longer claim their child is exempt based on their religious or personal beliefs.

Michelle Mello, PhD, JD, a professor of law and of health research and policy, and attorney Robert Moxley, JD, who represents the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against California, dissected the new bill and the federal lawsuit in this KPCC AirTalk interview.

In the interview, Moxley explained access to education was the main motivation for the lawsuit. He then fielded a question about the role unvaccinated children play in the spread of disease. Moxley's response:

These concerns, if they were real, could be addressed by the legislature. But in fact, it's a matter of misinformation that the particular children in California [with] personal belief exemptions to vaccinations are any kind of a public health risk. They're no danger to their classmates, they're no danger to each other. These are really healthy children. And they're being inappropriately targeted out of misinformation and fear.

Mello, and many others, disagree. "Vaccination mandates in particular have been litigated over and over again in the courts both in California, and other states, and well as at the U.S. Supreme Court, and it's simply not possible to find an example of a court that has held on constitutional grounds that imposing a vaccination mandate can't be done," Mello said.

Mello explains that this health and safety requirement specifically addresses the public health risk that unvaccinated children pose to other children including "medically fragile children" who attend public and private schools and daycare centers.

When asked about the prospects for the lawsuit, Mello said:

Legally, the footing is very, very fragile. The complaint has a long laundry list of claims, they should be commended for their creativity with which the complaint has been drafted... Unfortunately, there’s very little precedential reason to think that any of these will find footing in the court.

It’s worth a listen.

Previously: Stanford researchers analyze California’s new vaccine lawA discussion of vaccines, “the single most life-saving innovation ever in the history of medicine" and Side effects of childhood vaccines are extremely rare, new study finds
Photo by George Atanassov

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