[JURIST] A California senate committee on Wednesday approved a bill [SB 227] that would prohibit parents of school children from citing their personal beliefs as a reason to let the children remain unvaccinated. The proposed legislation, introduced by Senators Dr. Richard Pan and Ben Allen [official websites], would continue to allow medical exemptions to vaccinations in certain circumstances. The measure passed the Senate health committee by a vote of 6-2, but must pass other legislative hurdles before a possible Senate floor vote. The measure generated a renewed urgency of late, as more than 130 cases of measles were reported in California this year. Proponents argue that the personal belief exemption is putting the community in danger by exposing more children to diseases that are avoidable through immunization. Opponents claim the proposed law disregards parents’ rights.
Childhood vaccination and the potential harm of vaccination to children has been a topic of debate in America in recent years. If this legislative passes, California will be the third state to have strict vaccination legislation in place, following Mississippi and West Virginia [NCSL materials]. Much of the vaccination debate revolves around the alleged link between certain vaccines and autism. In January a federal appeals court upheld [JURIST report] a New York state rule barring unimmunized children from public schools. In May 2013 the US Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that even for an untimely petition filed under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, a petitioner may recover attorney’s fees as long as the claim was filed in good faith and there is a reasonable basis. 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. 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 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.