Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Call for Action: AB 2109 (or: Pro-Vax Parents and Providers Needed!)

Editor's Note: The religious exemption form was released last week. It can be found by clicking here

By Dorit Reiss

On September 30, 2012, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 2109, which goes into effect January 2014. This law will require a parent or guardian seeking a personal belief exemption (PBE) from the immunizations required for their child to attend school to first obtain a document signed by a licensed health care practitioner that verifies that the practitioner has informed the parent or guardian of the benefits and risks of immunization and the risks of the diseases we immunize against.

Unfortunately, the Governor, in his signing statement, also instructed the Health and Human Services Agency to add a religious exemption to the form. Several commentators addressed the problems with these instructions and I analyzed the legal implications.

A draft form of the bill had been provided to anti-vaccination group. It includes the following language: “Religious beliefs: I am a member of a religion which prohibits me from seeking medical advice or treatment from health care practitioners. (Signature of a health care practitioner not required in Part A.)”

Anti-vaccination activists are concerned that this language does not go far enough. We should be concerned for other reasons: that it may allow people to be exempt from immunization, leaving their children and others at risk, without good reason.

We should not allow the anti-vaccination voice to be the only parent voice heard. Speak up and let the health authorities know that you want the children of California protected against vaccine preventable diseases. You can contact: 

Ron Chapman, MD, MPH, Director and State Health Officer, at Ron.chapman@cdph.ca.gov

Diana Dooley, Secretary of the Health and Human Services Agency, at: diana.dooley@chhs.ca.gov

Governor Brown's office, at: governor@governor.ca.gov, or by phone, at 916-445-2841, fax at 916-558-3160

Donna Campbell, Deputy Secretary for Legislative Affairs at CHHS, at DCampbel@chhs.ca.gov (note: only one L in Campbel), or by phone at 916-654-0572

Janne Olson-Morgan, Assistant Secretary, CHHS, at anne.olson-morgan@chhs.ca.gov, or by phone at 916-651-8060

Editor's Note: You do not need to be a California resident to speak out on this issue. Be assured that the anti-vaccine forces responsible for the religious exemption loophole garnered forces from all over the country, as they do in most state immunization rule discussions. 

Dorit Reiss is a professor of law at University of California. She has published writings on administrative law, and recently wrote "Compensating the Victims of Failure to Vaccinate: What are the Options?" Dorit is a member of Voices for Vaccines' Parent Advisory Board.

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