Vaccination bill stirs debate in Sacramento

Personal exemption at issue in Senate Bill 277

Vaccination hysteria swept into Sacramento last week.

About 50 vaccination supporters joined more than 1,000 protesters at the April 8 Senate Health Committee hearing for a bill that would eliminate the personal exemption for childhood vaccinations. Attendees filled the main room and five overflow spaces, including the basement and the sixth-floor cafeteria.

The hot-button Senate Bill 277 centers on whether parents or the government should make personal medical choices that potentially impact the public.

“I'm committed to taking every step I can to reduce the risk to my child,” said Vaccinate California founder Leah Russin during the hearing. “We need to protect the rights of those who choose to vaccinate, to free them from the hazards posed to them from nonvaccinated individuals.”

Many in opposition to SB 277, however, feel the real hazards are the vaccines themselves. “As a new parent, we weren't necessarily told the risks,” said Tamara Morales of Cameron Park. Morales said her daughter Eden developed a seizure disorder from a vaccination.

But Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Children's Hospital, said some parents are misinformed about vaccines. “Let me be clear,” he said. “There is no scientific controversy about vaccine safety and vaccine effectiveness.”

At a pre-hearing rally, prominent California pediatrician Dr. Bob Sears said the crux of the bill lies in informed consent.

Blumberg disagreed, comparing those who don't vaccinate to drunk drivers.

The bill moved forward on a 6-2 vote.