Bioethics Blogs

In California, Vaccination is the Law

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

This week, California governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 277. This law mandates vaccinations for all children who attend a school (public or private) in the state. The only exemption is when a physician certifies that a vaccine “is not considered safe for the child.” The big change in this new law is the removal of the “personal belief” exemption from vaccination. No longer can a religious or philosophical belief exempt a child from receiving an immunization.

California has been at ground zero for conversations about vaccination. Earlier this year, the Disneyland park in Anaheim, California was the center of a massive national measles outbreak among unvaccinated children. Several celebrities with ties to that state have also led the campaign against vaccines. The most visible spokesperson is Jenny McCarthy whose child’s autism she blames on vaccines despite the fact that there is no link between the two. McCarthy’s ex-boyfriend, Jim Carrey went onto social media to explain his distrust of government and his position against the new law. This anti-vax movement believes that vaccines are not safe due to the presence of chemicals (specifically mercury compounds) and to a now denounced article that linked autism with vaccines. There is no scientific evidence that vaccines provide a danger to healthy children (unless they have an allergy to a component of the vaccine or have a compromised immune system).

The California legislature and Governor Brown deserve kudos for their efforts to ensure the public’s health by mandating vaccines for all children. Vaccination works by herd immunity—the more people who are immune, the more the population is protected.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.