California state Senators Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) and Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) introduced legislation to eliminate the personal belief exemption for vaccination in public school children. Currently parents can claim an exemption from the state-mandated vaccination requirements for their personal beliefs. A 2012 law mandates that parents choosing this personal belief exemption must consult a licensed health care provider about their decision, which decreased the number of personal belief exemptions claimed by ~20% in 2013. Even with this decrease, 2.5% of children are entering CA public schools with personal belief exemptions, with this number rising in some communities to over 10% of children. California vaccination rates are ~91% of the population, which compromises herd immunity as we are seeing quite clearly with the current measles outbreak. Vaccines are safe and save literally millions of lives a year (1 or 2 in 1,000 kids who contract the measles will die). Those families who opt out of vaccines put the rest of us at risk, especially those most vulnerable including children too young to be vaccinated or those with compromised immune systems. (For more information on the safety and efficacy of vaccines see an earlier post). Controlling an outbreak of a previously vanquished disease like the measles is also incredibly costly and strains public health resources. Join me in contacting your state legislators to show your support for this bill which would make CA the 33rd state to eliminate personal belief exemptions for all children entering public schools.
How to Contact Your State Legislators
As the saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Opinion polls consistently show the majority of Americans are in favor of vaccination and research overwhelmingly supports the safety and efficacy of vaccination. There is a very vocal minority opposed to vaccination, though, and you can bet they will be contacting their legislators. Let your state legislators know that you are in favor of this bill by contacting their offices through email or phone. You can find your state senator and representative here. You will be directed to you to your representative’s official website where you can find contact information for their offices and a web contact form. Below I have a sample email or phone script that I would encourage you to use and customize.
Dear State Senator/Representative ____,
I am writing/calling to encourage you to support the bill introduced by Senators Pan and Allen that would eliminate the personal belief exemption for vaccination in public school children. The science is clear, vaccines are safe and prevent millions of deaths a year. The efficacy of vaccination rests on herd immunity and California vaccination rates are dangerously low. This has led to recent outbreaks in whooping cough and the measles, which are incredibly dangerous diseases, especially to babies too young to be vaccinated and people with compromised immune systems. Controlling these diseases is also costly to the state and strains our public health resources. [if desired you can add something personalized here like: As a scientist and soon to be mother, this is a very important issue to me. When my baby is born in May, I am worried she will be needlessly exposed to dangerous diseases due to the high concentration of people who have chosen not to vaccinate in the Bay Area. I have a PhD in Biomedical Sciences and am trained to read and understand medical literature. I can assure you that the research supporting the safety of vaccines is sound. I would be happy to discuss this further with your office, provide you with easy to understand information about how vaccines work and the evidence that they are safe, or provide any other assistance you may need in making your decision.] Please help prevent needless outbreaks and deaths by supporting this bill and eliminating the personal belief exemption for vaccination in public school children.
Thank you for your consideration of this issue,