Friday, June 26, 2015

California assembly mandates vaccinations

Subtitle: Republican legislators hold out for more disease, fewer shots

The title is true; the subtitle is not, exactly. But the vote did split on party lines according to this report from the NY Times.

Schoolchildren in California would be required to be vaccinated unless there is a medical reason not to do so under a sweeping bill approved by the State Assembly on Thursday. The measure would end exemptions for personal or religious reasons, routinely requested by parents opposed to vaccines.

The debate was often cast in very personal terms, often eschewing the science in favor of personalized anecdotes.

The disagreement here has been intensely personal, with parents on opposing sides coming to the Capitol with babies in tow, holding them in slings while offering emotional testimony to lawmakers. And during an hourlong debate in the Assembly on Thursday, nearly every legislator who rose to speak invoked his or her experience as a parent.

But in spite of the personalization of the debate, the science is not in doubt. Vaccines prevent preventable diseases.

Despite the intense lobbying by each side, the science supporting vaccines is settled, and opponents remain only a small if vocal minority. Doctors overwhelmingly recommend childhood vaccines — which have been credited with the elimination or near-elimination of diseases like measles, mumps and rubella — and many pediatricians will not accept families who resist vaccines into their practices.

Medical studies that claim to show a link between vaccines and autism have been discredited or retracted, yet some parents and others cling to them as evidence that their children should not get the shots. But if too many people in a given community are not vaccinated, doctors say, the "herd immunity" factor that protects vulnerable people and others from these diseases breaks down.

When children have medical conditions that prevent their immunization, they are at risk for diseases that occur in the absence of mass vaccination.

Carl Krawitt, whose 7-year-old son, Rhett, is in remission from leukemia and was medically prohibited from receiving vaccines, argued that it was children like his son whose rights were being violated by those who refuse to vaccinate; unvaccinated children could pass along potentially deadly diseases to Rhett.

"The social impact of not having children vaccinated is truly life-threatening for some," Mr. Krawitt said. "We can take personal freedoms to such an extreme," he said, adding that he was not surprised that the measure had engendered so much controversy.

And about those Republican lawmakers?

... In committee hearings, the votes have largely split along party lines, with Democrats — a majority in the Legislature and throughout California — favoring the bill and Republicans against it.

You have to wonder: how did the Republican party become the party of "no"? No to science. No to medicine. No to health insurance. And the list goes on.

I have a hunch Mr. Krawitt may not be voting Republican any time soon.

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