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Education Reporter

California Vaccine Bill Threatens Parents' Rights
It may soon become more difficult for some California parents to enroll their children in public schools. California bill AB 2109 would require parents who wish to decline one or more vaccines to obtain a doctor's signature before enrolling their child in school. While the measure may initially sound like a common-sense idea, it takes decision-making powers away from parents and puts those powers in the hands of doctors who often benefit financially from high vaccination rates.

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Current California law requires parents to simply sign a "personal belief exemption" at their child's school if they wish to enroll without vaccinating. The new law, authored by State Assemblyman and former pediatrician Dr. Richard Pan, would require "a written statement signed by a health care practitioner that indicates that the practitioner provided the parent with information regarding the benefits and risks of the immunization and the health risks of specified communicable diseases."

Though it can certainly be a good idea to discuss vaccine choices with a qualified doctor, the bill is an important threat to parents' rights. As Dr. Bob Sears pointed out recently in The Huffington Post, many doctors will refuse to sign the form, either because they are themselves advocates for universal vaccination, or because insurance companies have offered them incentives for high vaccination rates:

I know how doctors think. Many doctors strongly believe that vaccines should be mandatory, and that parents should not have the right to decline vaccines. Some doctors are willing to provide care to unvaccinated kids, despite this difference in philosophy. But now the power over this decision will be put directly into doctors' hands. He or she can simply refuse to sign the form. Doctors who oppose vaccine freedom of choice have been frustrated for years over this issue. Finally, they will have the power to impose their beliefs on their patients. Patients will be forced to find another doctor to sign the form, submit to vaccines, or get kicked out of public school. . . . Many doctors will be unwilling to sign an exemption form for a new patient or a patient who is only there for one visit (just to get the form signed). Some doctors get financial incentives from insurance companies for having high vaccination rates in their practices; seeing patients to get their form signed will put such bonuses at risk. . . . At a time when we are trying to decrease health care spending, this bill will add millions of dollars of extra health care visits for families every year. If this unfortunate bill passes in California, the rest of the country will soon follow.

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