FEATURE | Posted Sept. 1, 2016

Vaccine law takes effect

UC Davis pediatrician a resource for parents

Kindergarten teacher with children looking at a bird nest

A new law in California that requires vaccinations for all children entering child care or school, and eliminates the personal-belief exemption for parents and guardians took effect in 2016.

The law aims to safeguard public health and make further headway in reversing a longstanding trend that has allowed parents and guardians to opt out of getting their children vaccinated for preventable diseases such as measles and whooping cough.

According to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), the number of kindergarten students in the state who were not vaccinated due to a personal belief exemption has begun to slowly decline in the past two years, after having increased annually over the past decade. Unvaccinated children increase the risk of spreading vaccine-preventable outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as measles and whooping cough.

Dean Blumberg #169; UC Regents“Parents do have a right to make health-care decisions for their children, but unvaccinated children increase the risk of spreading serious infectious diseases both at school and in the community.” 
— Dean Blumberg

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious bacterial disease that causes severe coughing attacks that can last for months. In 2014, CDPH declared an epidemic, which placed infants too young for vaccination at greatest risk for life-threatening cases of pertussis. Over 9,000 cases of pertussis were reported in California during 2010, the most in over 60 years, including 10 infant deaths.

“Parents do have a right to make health-care decisions for their children, but unvaccinated children increase the risk of spreading serious infectious diseases both at school and in the community,” said Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis.

From 2013 through 2015, Blumberg staffed an immunization clinic with a nurse practitioner at UC Davis Children’s Hospital, providing information, counseling parents about their concerns and discussing personal belief exemptions for immunizations with parents. The clinic is no longer needed with the advent of the new law eliminating personal belief exemptions for children attending school.

“We understand that parents are making an important decision for their loved ones, and we wanted to offer them resources that they need,” he said. “Having this dialogue with parents was valuable.”

On August 29, the American Academy of Pediatrics aligned their national immunization policy with the law enacted by California this year.

Childhood Immunization Resources

Details on the immunizations required for children entering public or private schools or child care cetners are available on the Shots for School website. The regulations are part of the California Health and Safety Code, Section 120325-75.