California took a bold but necessary step by requiring parents to vaccinate their schoolchildren, joining West Virginia and Mississippi as places where personal belief will no longer suffice as a reason not to comply.
Only children with serious health issues will be exempt. Parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated will have to home school them or find independent study.
The move represents a hard-fought victory for those who realize that while vaccinations are not perfect, they make children safer.
Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, spoke passionately on the issue, saying, “While it is true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.”
That explanation, backed by hard science, should be enough to persuade any parent of the need to vaccinate.
Vaccinating children not only protects them, it helps protect everyone else. High vaccination rates protect the few who cannot tolerate vaccines by not allowing a disease to gain a foothold in the population.
But vaccination rates have been falling alarmingly in California, particularly in the suburbs, where the unfounded belief that vaccines are harmful has taken hold. Despite being thoroughly discredited, the supposed link to autism refuses to die.
The growing opt-out movement reached a frightening point at the start of the year when an outbreak of measles occurred at Disneyland. Scores of people in 14 states contracted a completely preventable disease.
Measles is a highly contagious viral illness spread through coughing and sneezing. Before vaccinations became commonplace in 1963, about 3 million to 4 million Americans contracted the disease each year, and 300 to 400 died from it. By 2000, measles was declared all but eliminated in the United States.
Parents’ right to hold unscientific opinions becomes something entirely different when children who have not been vaccinated expose those who cannot be vaccinated to possibly deadly diseases.
Parents should have their children vaccinated for their own good, and that of the community as a whole.