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Personal beliefs matter 

SB 277 would take away a parent's right to make crucial health decisions for their children

You may be aware of a bill speeding through the California Legislature that would deny parents the right to make important health-care decisions for their children. If passed, SB 277 would eliminate the personal belief/religious exemption (PBE) that currently allows parents to choose which vaccines are given to their children. PBEs are utilized by a small minority of California parents. Most are not opposed to vaccinations but rather wish to delay or skip certain vaccines due to questions about safety, efficacy, and need. PBEs require the signature of a physician who has explained the risks and benefits of vaccination.

SB 277 would allow the state to essentially force treatment on a child over the objections of his/her parents. If a parent refuses to comply, the child would be denied their constitutional right to a public education, as well as access to private school and day care. If SB 277 becomes law, California will have the most rigid policy in the nation, alongside Mississippi and West Virginia, with no allowance for personal or religious beliefs.

Current California regulations require that a child receive 42 doses of 13 vaccines by the age of 6. Compare this to 1983, when only 24 doses of seven vaccines were recommended. In my mind, lawmakers have failed to demonstrate how this nearly two-fold increase has enhanced the overall health of our children and why the totality of these vaccines is necessary. 

The Disneyland measles outbreak of December 2014 appears to be the precipitating factor for this bill. Yet out of approximately 400,000 people who visited the park during the four days in which the disease is believed to have spread, only 40 park-goers were infected. Many were adults. No one died. If anything, this incident demonstrates that current policy is effective in preventing widespread transmission of the measles.

While infectious diseases were the scourge of previous generations, they rarely affect American children today. The Centers for Disease Control says that modern sanitation practices and education, along with a secure, clean water supply have done a lot to help eradicate infectious diseases. According to the Oxford Journal, deaths from measles dropped from 21 deaths per 1,000 reported cases in 1911-1912 to one death per 1,000 cases in 1953-1962. That was before the measles vaccine was introduced in 1963.

We are told that all the vaccines are necessary to prevent the spread of disease and protect the public welfare, but where’s the evidence? The DTaP vaccination, containing vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough), is required five times by age 6, yet I question its ability to protect the public.

First off, tetanus is not a communicable disease. Even if a child has tetanus she or he can’t infect anyone else. This immunization is solely for personal protection.

Likewise, a recent experiment with deliberate pertussis infection in primates revealed that, although the pertussis vaccine does prevent the symptoms, it doesn’t always prevent colonization and transmission of the disease. Furthermore, a report from the 2013 meeting of the Board of Scientific Counselors at the CDC revealed findings that children vaccinated for pertussis are more likely than unvaccinated children to be infected by a variant strain of pertussis that is currently circulating in the U.S. In 2012, more than 50 percent of the pertussis cases in this country were reported to have been caused by this variant strain. Clearly the pertussis vaccine is ineffective in protecting the public welfare and may even put individuals at a greater risk of infection.

Vaccination for hepatitis B is required at birth and at 2 and 6 months of age, yet hepatitis B is a blood-borne virus. It can’t spread in a school environment among young children who aren’t engaged in risky adult behavior like having sex or sharing needles. In addition, children who are chronic hepatitis B carriers have a protected right to a public education. It makes no sense from a public health perspective to deny the same education to those who are simply unvaccinated and not even carriers of hepatitis B.

There exists a real risk/benefit equation to vaccinations that each family must decipher for themselves. Vaccines contain aluminum, which is a known neurotoxin, as well as formaldehyde, yeast, egg protein, and human and animal DNA. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, “vaccines are unavoidably unsafe.” More than $3 billion has been paid out by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program since its inception 30 years ago.

Hepatitis B, for example, can be a risky vaccination. As an Arizona-based physician, Jane Orient, summed it up in testimony before Congress in 1999: “For most children, the risk of a serious vaccine reaction may be 100 times greater than the risk of hepatitis B.”

By the way, pharmaceutical giant Merck charges $11 a shot for the three-shot hepatitis B series, but bears zero liability for injury or death. Thanks to the Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 drug companies have total immunity from legal claims over injury resulting from all existing and future vaccines. Merck is also the sole manufacturer of the MMR and Varicella vaccines. They are currently under investigation by the Justice Department in two separate whistleblower cases that question the safety and efficacy of the MMR. Meanwhile, in 2014, Merck’s revenue topped $42.2 billion. According to The Wall Street Journal, Merck’s CEO received a jaw-dropping annual compensation of $25 million in 2014.

Lawmakers’ claims that every mandated vaccine is safe, effective, and necessary are not always supported by the facts. Parents must retain the freedom to weigh the risks and benefits of any proposed medical treatment and to act accordingly. Neither money nor power pollutes a parent’s judgment when it comes to making health-care decisions for their children. For the good of each child, please oppose SB 277.

Nicole Lonner Dorfman lives in Morro Bay. Send comments to clanham@newtimesslo.com.

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