Update: Minority Leader Bob Huff has clarified that he has not shifted his position. His office recently released a statement:
Like many parents, our members are very concerned about the recent outbreak of measles. Many Californians are rightfully asking if this is because of California’s ‘exemption’ clause, which has prompted a larger debate of our state’s youth vaccination policies. While medical experts are overwhelmingly in agreement that vaccines are safe, preserving the freedom of choice has also emerged as part of this important discussion. We look forward to reviewing the proposed legislation in detail and weighing what appropriate actions should be taken in the coming months.
A bill to be offered by California Democratic state Sen. Richard Pan would eliminate the “personal belief exemption” for measles vaccinations, forbidding parents to reject vaccination for their children.
Pro-vaccination champions come from both sides of the political aisle. According to a February Pew Research Center poll In California, 89 percent of Republicans and 87 percent of Democrats think vaccines are safe for healthy children. The poll found nine percent of respondents thought vaccines were unsafe.
Republican Senate leader Bob Huff has reversed his position. In 2012 he voted against Pan’s previous vaccine, but now he will vote for the new bill. He told the Sacramento Bee, “Times were different. We’ve had a historic position of erring on the side of parents, I would say. And yet with measles outbreaks… It leads to a perspective that maybe we need to revisit that.”
GOP Sen. Ted Gaines of Roseville also voted against the 2012 bill, and is considering reversing his position, too. He asserted to the Bee, “I have had calls coming in from my constituents, folks that are in opposition and have concern about the government being involved in that decision-making process. I’m very concerned, though, about an expanded outbreak of measles. So I’m taking a close look at the bill.”
The Bee reported that Pan called the 2012 battle a fight between “the experts vs. the people who didn’t trust them,” adding that in 2015, more laymen want vaccinations. He said, “We’re getting calls from parents who are saying, ‘I want my family protected. I don’t want my kids … to get measles.” Pan noted that parents of babies under one-year-old or children undergoing treatment for serious illnesses know that their children cannot be given the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR), and they “are standing up now and saying this situation is not acceptable, that our children are going to be at risk because people aren’t getting vaccinated. That is the big shift you’re seeing.”
Kathy Palmer, an anti-vaccination proponent, passes out one-page brochures at grocery stores and malls that make claims debunked by mainstream science, such as the links between vaccines and autism. Her brochure reads, “If only we would have known that you can’t unvaccinate. The side effects are for life.”
Dr. Luther Cobb, president of the California Medical Association, sneered at those claims, saying, “This is like talking to a creationist about evolution. They reach their conclusion, and then they find some little scrap of evidence to go along with it. There is no legitimate debate on the subject.”
The Bee reports that although vaccines are immensely successful, there are rare cases where the vaccines are rendered ineffective. Whooping cough affected the town of Elk Grove last year, despite a high rate of schoolchildren having their vaccinations. The vaccination for whooping cough needs to be given every two to three years to be completely effective.
According to Dr. Gil Chavez, head epidemiologist at the California Department of Public Health, one vaccination with the MMR insures 95 percent immunity. Two shots raise that figure to 99 percent. But of the 110 cases of measles in the state, 13 cases showed victims already having had one shot.“ Chavez admitted:
Even with two doses of MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, approximately one percent of people will remain susceptible to measles, and with only one dose approximately five percent will remain susceptible (which is the reason for the two-dose recommendation). It appears that some vaccinated people have a less severe case of measles because they may have some immunity. If vaccinated people develop measles, they may be less infectious than other measles cases, but fully vaccinated people have transmitted measles to others.