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Child immunization bill is an issue among parents, doctors

June 14, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Nicole Price wants her son, Sisto, to get all his shots on time, so a proposed state law that would make refusing immunizations more difficult for parents makes sense to her.

"It's for your own safety and the safety of other children so in my opinion I think it's okay," said Price.

But Burbank mom, Yasmin Lawrence, wants to be choosier about the shots her child gets.

"I'm planning on giving the shots to my daughter but only the really important ones," she said.

AB 2109 would mean parents like Lawrence will be required to undergo counseling with a health professional before they can get a waiver allowing their child to go to school without all their shots. California Assembly member and pediatrician Richard Pan says the bill is for the public good.

"We need parents to understand that when they make the decision not to vaccinate their children, that has an impact on the larger community as well," said Pan.

Pan also said people forget how bad diseases like measles or polio can be. Plus, he blames widespread misinformation on the Internet, including how childhood vaccines may cause autism, for the rise in parents refusing immunizations.

"People, when they go searching, they want to do the right thing for their child and they become uncertain," he said.

Since 2010, the number of California children entering kindergarten without receiving required vaccinations increased 25 percent. But some doctors, like Santa Monica pediatrician Jay Gordon, do not support the bill.

"The pharmaceutical industry has influenced the creation and then the passing of this bill," he said.

Gordon says the bill will lead to more red tape, more waiting in doctor's offices and rushed consultations.

"Rather than being able to discuss something with your doctor, you're going to fold to the pressure, you're going to be influence by the fact that it's just too much trouble to discuss which shots are the ones you believe your child should get," he said.

While Gordon admits he vaccinates far fewer patients than the average pediatrician, he says this bill is not about the merits of vaccination but rather about a parents right to parent.

"It's a little too invasive on the government's part, and I don't believe that the government should be involved in deciding for the family," said Lawrence.

But Pan says that point of view is a misunderstanding.

"We are not taking away the parents right to make a decision about how to take care of their own children," he said. "This is about protecting our community. When a parent makes that decision, they need to recognize and understand that has an impact not only on their own child, but also on the larger community and the school."

AB 2109 has passed the Assembly and heads to the senate next for a round of committee votes. If it's successful it'll go to the full senate. Lawmakers have until the end of August to send all bills to Governor Brown.


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