Vac­ci­na­tion bill faces hur­dles

Mea­sure to re­quire more stu­dents to get shots runs into re­sis­tance from law­mak­ers.

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By Pa­trick McGreevy pa­trick.mcgreevy @la­times.com Twit­ter: @mc­greevy99

SACRA­MENTO — A pro­posal that would re­quire more chil­dren to be vac­ci­nated in Cal­i­for­nia ran into trou­ble Wed­nes­day amid ob­jec­tions that it would force thou­sands of non-im­mu­nized stu­dents out of public schools.

The mea­sure’s au­thor, Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacra­mento), agreed to de­lay a vote on it af­ter be­ing warned by the Se­nate Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mit­tee chair­woman that it would not win the panel’s ap­proval in its cur­rent form.

“If I were you, I would not take a vote to­day,” said the chair­woman, Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flin­tridge).

She urged Pan to try to re­solve the deep-seated con­cerns of a ma­jor­ity of com­mit­tee mem­bers. “Oth­er­wise, I don’t think your bill pro­ceeds out of this com­mit­tee,” she said.

The sen­a­tors say the bill, which would re­move the “per­sonal be­lief ” ex­emp­tion from the state’s vac­ci­na­tion re­quire­ment, would mean that stu­dents whose par­ents refuse to im­mu­nize them would be barred from public schools.

“The penalty for not im­mu­niz­ing their kids is you ei­ther have to home-school or take your kids out of public schools, and I don’t think that’s a so­lu­tion to the prob­lem,” Liu said dur­ing the hear­ing, which lasted more than two hours as hun­dreds of par­ents and chil­dren tes­ti­fied.

Many par­ents refuse to im­mu­nize their chil­dren be- cause they be­lieve vac­cines can have se­ri­ous neg­a­tive health ef­fects, in­clud­ing autism. Med­i­cal stud­ies say the shots are safe.

Pan said that when many par­ents don’t im­mu­nize their chil­dren, it in­creases the risk to other chil­dren who have im­mune-com­pro­mised sys­tems.

“We need to pro­tect chil­dren,” Pan told the com­mit­tee.

Some panel mem­bers, in­clud­ing Liu, said they want to pre­serve Cal­i­for­nia’s ex­emp­tion al­lowance for those with re­li­gious ob­jec­tions to vac­ci­na­tion.

Com­mit­tee mem­ber and Se­nate Repub­li­can leader Robert Huff of Di­a­mond Bar said he did not see enough ev­i­dence of a health risk to jus­tify tak­ing away parental choice.

“When do you take per­sonal free­doms and sub­ject them to gov­ern­ment man­dates?” he asked, call­ing it the cen­tral ques­tion at is­sue in the im­mu­niza­tion de­bate.

Other mem­bers voiced con­cerns about re­quir­ing many chil­dren to be home­schooled when some par­ents can­not af­ford, or are not qual­i­fied, to do so.

“A lot of par­ents sim­ply can­not home-school their kids,” said Sen. Marty Block (D-San Diego).

Pan said he was open to some com­pro­mises, such as the pos­si­bil­ity of main­tain­ing the state’s ex­ist­ing re­li­gious ex­emp­tion and a stricter limit on the num­ber of re­quired vac­cines. He added that he was also will­ing to make sure chil­dren can get home-schooled with the help of public schools.

Be­fore the vote, sev­eral par­ents ob­jected to Pan’s bill, SB 277.

“My son will be pulled from public school if this bill passes,” said Heather Ko­vac of South Lake Ta­hoe.

Other par­ents sup­ported the leg­is­la­tion. They in­cluded Carl Krawitt, who ar­rived with Rhett, his 7-yearold son, a leukemia sur­vivor whose weak­ened im­mune sys­tem makes him sus­cep­ti­ble to dis­eases trans­mit­ted by chil­dren who are not vac­ci­nated.

“We be­lieve this is sound public health pol­icy be­cause it keeps our chil­dren safe,” Krawitt said.

Rich Pedroncelli

RHETT KRAWITT, 7, a leukemia sur­vivor who has a weak­ened im­mune sys­tem, speaks to the Se­nate Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mit­tee on Wed­nes­day dur­ing a hear­ing on SB 277 about be­ing sus­cep­ti­ble to in­fec­tions spread by stu­dents who haven’t had vac­ci­na­tions.

Ir­fan Khan

KARA RHODES, car­ry­ing her son Ky­o­juro Ki­tano, demon­strates in Los An­ge­les in fa­vor of per­sonal be­lief ex­emp­tions for vac­ci­na­tions.

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