Currently in California, it is cheaper and easier to get an exemption from vaccine requirements for school entry than it is to actually comply with the requirements.
Now Assemblymember Richard Pan (D 5th District), also a physician, is planning to change that. He has introduced AB 2109. (As of March 24, the bill is still in the Assembly Health Committee.) The change in the law is pretty mild. Vincent Iannelli MD summarizes the change:
Instead of simply signing a personal belief vaccine exemption form on their own, parents will be required to have a written statement signed by a [licensed] health practitioner that says the parent was given information about the benefits and risks of immunizations and the risks of certain vaccine-preventable diseases.
The provisions of AB 2109 are much milder than the recommendations from the The Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society ( Download Pediatric_infectious_disease_soc_vaccine_exemptions). I've excerpted part of the Position Statement below, and added emphasis
Position Statement Regarding Personal Belief Exemption from Immunization Mandates from The Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society March 2011
It is recognized that in some states, failure to pass personal belief exemption legislation or regulation could result in public backlash that will erode support for immunization mandates. If legislation or regulation is being considered in this situation, it should contain the following provisions, which are intended to minimize use of exemptions as the “path of least resistance” for children who are behind on immunizations (whereby it would be easier to obtain an exemption than to catch-up the child’s immunizations):
- The personal belief against immunization must be sincere and firmly held.
- Before a child is granted an exemption, the parents or guardians must receive state-approved counseling that delineates the personal and public health importance of immunization, the scientific basis for safety of vaccines, and the consequences of exemption for their child as well as other children in the community who are vulnerable to disease and cannot otherwise be protected.
- Before a child is granted an exemption, the parents or guardians must sign a statement that delineates the basis, strength, and duration of their belief; their understanding of the risks that refusal to immunize has on their child’s health and the health of others (including the potential for serious illness or death); and their acknowledgement that they are making the decision not to vaccinate on behalf of their child.
- Parents and guardians who claim exemptions should be required to revisit the decision annually with a state-approved counselor and should be required to sign a statement each year to renew the exemption.
- Children should be barred from school attendance and other group activities if there is an outbreak of a disease that is preventable by a vaccination from which they have been exempted. Parents and guardians who claim exemptions for their children should acknowledge in writing their understanding that this will occur.
- States that adopt provisions for personal belief exemptions should track exemption rates and periodically reassess the impact that exemptions may have on disease rates.
Despite the relative mildness of AB 2109, both in-state and out-of-state anti-vaccine activists are opposing the bill.
Update: AB 2109 will be heard TUESDAY, APRIL 17, 2012
1:30 p.m. - State Capitol, Room 4202