SB277 Update

Not surprisingly, SB277, the California bill that would eliminate the parental personal belief exemption for their children’s vaccinations has passed through the state Senate and faces a final vote from the Assembly before going to the governor, who is likely to sign it.  If it passes, California will join Mississippi and Virginia in the distinction of being the only states to deny parents this right.  If it passes, you can also bet that other states will begin looking to pass similar legislation.  Don’t presume this is just an issue for the nutty folks in California!  A few thoughts.

The text of the bill as amended thus far is here.  As always, I encourage you to read it for yourself.  We all need to get better at looking at primary source documents instead of trusting news excerpts.  News reports are convenient but they don’t (and can’t) tell the full story.  Rather than listen to what other people think first, read the document for yourself, formulate your own questions and concerns, and then use these as the basis to go out and listen to what other people are saying.

As I’ve stated before, I believe that the State has the right to determine certain conditions under which people utilize optional services it provides.  If you wish to avail yourself of free or nearly free State education or child care, you should be expected to play by the States’ rules.  A problem comes when these demands are mandatory even if you don’t avail yourself of these services.  The bill as modified allows for the continued use of the personal belief waiver for home-schooled children.  For now.  As a news article I can no longer find made mention of, further amendments to the bill are certainly possible.

This news article claims – as does the preamble to the bill itself – that parents will have the right to exercise the personal belief exemption to opt their children out of future additions to the current list of ten mandatory vaccines.  The bill itself does not say this, however.  I presume that a further amended text of the bill is in process with lawyers right now.

The text of the preamble clearly states that the goal of this bill is to provide for the “eventual achievement of total immunization of appropriate age groups against the following childhood diseases”.  This is the stated goal of the bill.  Which I take to mean that the fight will continue even with the current modifications and exemptions for private home schoolers.  In other words, don’t breathe too easily, too quickly.

The ten vaccines themselves are fairly typical.  But I was less familiar with the third one listed – haemophilus influenzae tybe b.  According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), this is an illness that affects “about” 20,000 children under the age of five years old each year.  Of these 20,000, “about 3%-6%” died as a result of the infection.  Which means 60 to 120 deaths per year, across the entire nation.  It doesn’t even count in the top 10 causes of death for children under the age of five by the CDC’s own data (unless these deaths are included under the more general arena of influenzae).  Yet we’re going to mandate this vaccine?

This news story touted the limitation of the required vaccines to ten. But the bill text clearly indicates no such limit.  Ten initial vaccinations are specified, with the State Department of Public Health having sole discretion as to what additional vaccines might be required.  While they are to receive input from various scientific boards and agencies, they are in no way mandated to follow such input.

Several of the articles indicated that objections were raised because some of the immunizations rely on biological elements derived from aborted embryos.  Parents are not required to be informed when this is the case.

All of this is, as I see it, just one aspect of increasing pressure to force people into a specific medical model that severely curtails or eliminates the authority of parents.  Parents who refuse vaccines for their kids are labeled as nut jobs and religious zealots.  People who reject suggested courses of treatment for their children are labeled as dangerous and incompetent.  Medical technology increasingly is being pushed as not just something that assists people, but something that must control and dictate to people.

I know many, many fine health professionals and I am grateful for the world class care available to me.  But as soon as that care is no longer optional, a service provided to me and my family for us to avail ourselves of as our beliefs and understanding guide us, as soon as I am required by law to receive it whether I want it or not, whether I trust it or not, and in objection to my personal beliefs, then I have a far greater danger on my hands than a hypothetical health concern, and that is a very real danger from a government that seizes the right to tell me what to do without any guarantee that the outcome will be better than my decisions to the contrary.

History teaches me that his sort of danger is ALWAYS dangerous and often fatal to a great many people.  Easily as dangerous and fatal as any of the vaccinations the State wishes to force my children to receive.  I respect the concerns of those who feel mandatory vaccination is a good thing.  I’m pretty sure they want their children (and mine) to be happy and healthy every bit as much as I want my own children (and theirs) to be healthy and happy.  But philosophical differences matter.  Theological differences matter.  And forcing people to do something is always a very dangerous precedent, particularly when the intentions are good.

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6 Responses to “SB277 Update”

  1. Invisible Mikey Says:

    Personal beliefs do matter. They just don’t matter as much as undertaking small actions with minimal risk to fight diseases we should have eradicated decades ago, but haven’t because people are too selfish about individual liberty vs the public good.

    Citizens are “forced” to conform to all kinds of boundaries. There are age minimums for contracts and buying “adult” products like cigarettes and alcohol. Your dwelling and your car have to pass standards for different kinds of inspection. States and cities regulate guns. You think mandatory regulation is (historically) always dangerous? Fine, let’s bring back child labor, slavery and “my land, my rules” of the old west.

    You may believe in driving at high speed, and have a car capable of doing it, and be a NASCAR champion driver, but you still can’t go 100mph in a residential zone because it places other people at risk. Not vaccinating places others at risk of getting diseases that sure are no fun even if the lethality is low. It’s that simple.

    • mrpaulnelson Says:

      Welcome back Mikey!

      The key words here are “small actions” and “minimal risk” and “should have eradicated” – along with “selfish” and “individual liberty vs. the public good”.

      I don’t consider telling me as a parent that my children must have injections into their bodies is a “small action”. Regardless of one’s position on efficacy, there have been too many past examples of people using public health for a variety of other, undisclosed agendas for me to ever be comfortable with a government mandate. I am greatly appreciative that vaccines exist and are available. Telling a parent that the State gets to make that decision regardless of possible side effects is a HUGE matter, not a small one.

      Who defines “minimal risk”? As I mentioned in my blog post, why are we mandating a vaccine for an illness that *might* have killed less than 100 people a year? Based on what studies? Show me the long-term studies of vaccines on people. Show me the short-term studies of how vaccines interact with each other (I won’t ask for long-term studies since those, by definition, aren’t available for most of these vaccines). What I’m left with is the government’s assurances that these are safe, based on no indication other than voluntarily provided short-term studies by the companies who develop the vaccines. Even if I were to assume that all these vaccines are perfectly safe and developed in perfect safety, there’s no guarantee that, once vaccines are mandatory, such safeguards will still be as stringent.

      I’m not sure that we can ever say that something *should* have been eradicated. I think we’re far too early in our studies of diseases and vaccinations to properly understand more than the most cursory of data – mortality rates. I’ll also argue that since vaccines arise in a period of time corresponding with major improvements in public sanitation and hygiene, determining how much of the eradication of various illnesses is directly traceable to vaccines and how much to general hygienic improvements is difficult, at best. I’m grateful that we were able to eliminate something like polio. How this translates to eliminating *any* illness that we happen to have a vaccine for is not a necessary logical conclusion.

      Selfishness vs. the public good is an interesting arena to deal with, to say the least. The public voluntarily limits itself in all sorts of ways for our own good. Having our good dictated to us is a different matter. Is it selfish to question data? Is it selfish to point out inconsistencies in how government agencies have acted in the past (the Tuskegee syphilis experiment being the most glaring)? Is it selfish to doubt the intentions of government bodies? Our Founding Father’s didn’t think so, which is why they built so many limitations and safeguards into the governmental process.

      Yes, we abide by all sorts of boundaries – overall limitations on what we should not do (speed excessively, operate vehicles that are unsafe, build or live in buildings that are flawed, etc. No, mandatory regulation is not always bad, and I apologize if I gave that impression. But it *is* always dangerous. The fact that certain regulations or restrictions are not dangerous does not remove the potential for danger in future regulations and restrictions. I would argue that what where we’re at now is that we’ve had some very good regulations and restrictions in the past, so many people are apt to trust the government on all manner of things that don’t necessarily warrant that trust – at least not without some very good investigation. The fact that we have regulated child labor and recognized the inherent evilness of slavery does not require that any act of government be considered benign. Every particular piece of legislation has to be evaluated on its own merits.

      What is at the heart of the disagreement is a very difficult to resolve difference in where we place our trust and how we validate that trust. I would be much more comfortable with mandated vaccinations if there was a long and comprehensive list of studies that have shown – by our best scientific standards – that there are no short or long-term ill effects of these vaccinations. Not just specific vaccinations, but vaccinations combined with other vaccinations and taking into account the boosters that are added in. I would also expect there to be particular studies that demonstrate that these vaccines both do what they claim, and indicate for how long the protection is active. I would be more comfortable with legislation if it was dealt with on a vaccine by vaccine basis, rather than as a cluster giving the State carte blanche ability to add additional vaccines at any time without a public referendum.

      I think that everyone can agree that driving at high speeds through school zones and residential areas is not good. But it does not put me at risk personally to abide by these rules. I may not like the rules, and I may be capable of safely operating at a higher speed, but I abide by the speed limit. Injecting chemicals into someone’s body without sufficient evidence of efficacy, risks, interactions and side effects, and insisting that this *must* be done for the public good is a very different matter indeed! I am being asked to place my child at risk – or your child at risk – personally. For inadequately understood benefits that are touted without quantification in the name of the “public good”.

      I appreciate your point of view, but I disagree with it. And the disagreement centers on words that we take for granted, and the evidence (as available) to make those words valid or misleading. If I had more compelling evidence, and less ad hominem (not by you, but in general public debate!) attacks on those who question vaccines, I would feel a lot more comfortable with a mandatory vaccination policy.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

      • Invisible Mikey Says:

        And I appreciate the breadth of reply. My education is in patient care. No variety of medicine has ever been devised (so far) that is as effective at such low risk as vaccines. It’s such a small tweak to the immune system compared to antibiotics and other treatments. The rate of negative outcomes is so tiny, and the drop in rates of the diseases covered so dramatic that vaccines should have their own monuments in Washington.

        Academic literature on vaccines, not just studies but scholarly papers on the ethical issues are easy to find once you know the correct terminology. Here’s one I read recently that may point you toward more study (if you wish):
        http://jid.oxfordjournals.org/content/201/11/1607.full

        (Sorry it’s kind of dry reading compared to blogs, but it’s my continuing duty to read this stuff to maintain licenses.)

        I’m not in favor of mandating most medical treatment. As a provider, I take informed consent seriously. But due to the small risk and great benefit, vaccines are in a special class. Some doctors are no longer accepting patients who won’t vaccinate because it puts other patients at risk in waiting rooms. We haven’t gone that far at the Urgent Care where I work, but we had to get a family quarantined and send one of their kids to the hospital. They all got pertussis at a church potluck. None of us gave them a “we warned you” at the clinic, but I guarantee they were scared once they got so sick so fast. And last year we had to med-evac out a one year-old with meningitis. I don’t ever want to have to see such easily preventable situations in my lifetime again, though I expect to be continuing the debate until retirement.

      • mrpaulnelson Says:

        Thank you for the reading reference. I will go through it and get back to you when I finish. I very much appreciate you sharing your perspective, which as a medical care provider is important. I’m particularly excited by some of the cross-references and bibliographical information the article you directed me towards has.

        I’ll admit that the strong bias (warranted or not) of health care providers to not deal with people who legally choose not to vaccinate is frightening. And I’m grateful that you and the clinic where you work are not condescending about it, despite your strong convictions. That is admirable and encouraging.

        Again, thanks for the reference and I’ll be back in touch!

  2. jonsyfer Says:

    Vaccines for the most part are neither safe nor effective. Off the top of my head I can list 4 reasons:

    • The injected person goes through a shedding period where he/she can potentially infect others with the very disease they are supposedly protected against.
    • Quite often they contract the disease that they are supposed protected against.
    • There are thousands of documented cases of permanent damage from vaccines
    • Experts admit that outbreaks can and do occur in heavily vaccinated communities

    Side note: The so called “experts” will *never* have an open debate on the topic of vaccines, nor will they conduct a controlled study of the health of vaccinated vs non-vaccinated. Those two facts alone should have people with critical thinking skills wondering.

    • mrpaulnelson Says:

      I’m willing to concede that some vaccines may have certain levels of effectiveness. I prefer to avoid throwing babies out with bathwater as much as possible. That being said, with inadequate documentation of long-term possible side-effects, and no long or short-term studies of multiple vaccine interactions, I find mandating them for the public an irresponsible position. Certainly no less irresponsible than what is being attributed to “anti-vaxxer” concerns.

      Add to the mix the huge amounts of money currently made (and spent) on developing vaccines, and there’s a massive further risk of abuse. I don’t think people really recognize that vaccinations are only going to increase in scope, opening the door to even further unexamined long-term consequences.

      Thanks for joining in the conversation, Jon.

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