[JURIST] California state senators Dr. Richard Pan and Ben Allen [personal website] on Wednesday announced plans to propose legislation [press release] requiring parents to vaccinate all school children. This legislation will “repeal the personal belief exemption that currently allows parents to effectively opt their child out of vaccines,” because “the high number of unvaccinated students is jeopardizing public health,” especially in relation to the recent, preventable outbreaks of whooping cough and measles. If this legislation passes, it will make California the third state to have strict vaccination legislation in place, following Mississippi and West Virginia [NCSL materials].
Childhood vaccination and the potential harm of vaccination to children has been a topic of debate in America in recent years. Much of this debate revolves around the alleged link between certain vaccines and autism. In August 2010 the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a decision finding insufficient evidence [JURIST report] to link childhood vaccines and autism in three cases. The decision was consistent with 18 major scientific studies [JURIST op-ed], which have failed to show a link between vaccines and the widely-diagnosed neurodevelopmental disorder. In February 2011 the US Supreme Court ruled that the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 provides blanket immunity [JURIST report] to vaccine manufacturers from all tort actions filed in state or federal court alleging design defects. In May 2013 the Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that even for an untimely petition filed under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, a petitioner may recover attorneys fees as long as the claim was filed in good faith and there is a reasonable basis. Last month a federal appeals court upheld [JURIST report] a New York state rule barring unimmunized children from public schools.