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New California Law Requires Doctor’s Note For Vaccine Exemptions… But There’s An Out

Above: Public school student Julio Valenzuela, 11, grimaces as he gets a vaccination before the start of the school in Lynnwood.

Aired 1/2/14 on KPBS News.

A new law went into effect Jan. 1 making it a little harder for California students to skip required vaccinations. But there's still an easy way out for parents who don't want their kids to get shots.

A new state law went into effect Jan. 1 making it a little harder for California students to skip required vaccinations. The law says parents can now only claim a personal belief exemption from vaccines if they have a signed form from their doctor.

But there's still an easy way out for parents who don't want their kids to get shots.

California law requires students be vaccinated against diseases like polio, measles and whooping cough before they can attend school. But parents have been able to skip these requirements by signing a personal belief exemption, which says immunization is contrary to their way of thinking.

Under the new California law, parents will still be able to do that. But they have to get a signed form from their pediatrician saying they've been informed of the "benefits and risks of immunization."

Although the law took effect at the start of 2014, students only need this new form when they start kindergarten or middle school or move to California from out of state. Otherwise, their existing exemption will still apply.

But there's a way around this new requirement.

The new form also has a box that says the family belongs to a religion that prohibits "seeking medical advice or treatment." If parents check this box, they don't need a doctor's signature to exempt their children from vaccinations.

This religious exemption was added by Gov. Jerry Brown when he signed the law. Catherine Flores Martin, the director of the California Immunization Coalition, told NPR she worries the additional box on the form will weaken the law, because parents don't have to provide proof of their religion to check it.

A joint KPBS/inewsource investigation in September showed nearly 90 percent of San Diego County's schools had kindergarten classes with at least one student not current on vaccines at the start of the 2012 school year, the most recent year data was available from the California Department of Public Health. It found just less than 4 percent of San Diego County kindergartners entered school in 2012 with a personal belief exemption on file.

Comments

Avatar for user '2xyn1xx'

2xyn1xx | January 2, 2014 at 2:37 p.m. ― 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Thank you for encouraging people to lie on a form. We rely on herd immunity to keep those who cannot be vaccinated from get sick. So way to go, let's put everyone else at risk because people would rather take medical advice from a Playboy Bunny than an actual scientist. Disappointed in you to say the least.

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Avatar for user 'muckapoo1'

muckapoo1 | January 2, 2014 at 3:33 p.m. ― 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Everything seems to be favoring the few and dissing the majority. These same people will sue their doctor when the kid gets sick. I feel bad for the kids of these misled and naive parents.

At what point did personal beliefs allow people to ignore the law? From immigration to requirements to go to school. I would enjoy seeing what laws I can ignore next week. Perhaps bank robbery can be my new ridiculous belief structure. The leftist whackos in Sacromental just may agree.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | January 2, 2014 at 3:48 p.m. ― 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I agree with the two posts above.

What good is a law that has no teeth like this one.

These parents are selfishly putting others at risk.

The problem with herd immunity is that it has thresholds - if enough irresponsible parents do this herd immunity will no longer be in effect for many diseases.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | January 2, 2014 at 3:49 p.m. ― 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Muckapoo, it's not a left vs right issue.

It's a science vs ignoramus issue.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 2, 2014 at 4:53 p.m. ― 6 months, 3 weeks ago

_uckkkapoo1, says: "At what point did personal beliefs allow people to ignore the law? From immigration to requirements to go to school. I would enjoy seeing what laws I can ignore next week. Perhaps bank robbery can be my new ridiculous belief structure. The leftist whackos in Sacromental just may agree."

You mean like Rickkk Perry's flip-flopping:

Rick Perry reverses himself, calls HPV vaccine mandate a 'mistake ...
www.washingtonpost.com/...perry...vaccine.../gIQAM2azJJ_story.html‎
Aug 16, 2011 - The vaccine would encourage promiscuity, according to many conservatives, who had long supported Perry's views against abortion an

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 2, 2014 at 4:55 p.m. ― 6 months, 3 weeks ago

@BEIJINGDUCKSTER, _uckkka poo1 doesn't know what an ignoramus is.

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Avatar for user 'Jerry_L'

Jerry_L | January 2, 2014 at 5:32 p.m. ― 6 months, 3 weeks ago

This story is reprehensible and should be taken off the air. The story as written here on the web page is more neutral, but the audio broadcast version definitely gives the impression that it is recommending that, if parents want to avoid the "hassle" of going to a doctor where they would be informed of the pros and cons of vaccinations, they should lie on a form, and falsely claim a religious exemption. The story also gives the impression that a doctor has a veto power over the personal belief exemption, and might deny it, but this is wrong. The doctor is merely being asked to inform the patient, and then sign a form validating that she has done this. (See the Exemption Form effective 2014: http://eziz.org/assets/docs/CDPH-8262.pdf)

Some people do have genuine religious convictions which prohibit them from seeking medical advice or treatment, and I approve of Gov. Brown's accommodating their ability to freely exercise their religion. But to treat this lightly as a convenient "way around" a very serious provision of the law, or to recommend that other people do, is deplorable.

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Avatar for user 'Sdteacher60'

Sdteacher60 | January 2, 2014 at 6:17 p.m. ― 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I couldn't believe it when I heard this on the news today. What a completely irresponsible piece. Skipping immunizations is not a decision to be taken lightly. All scientific evidence shows that it can put not only your children, but the whole population at risk. This piece made light of these facts and seemed to encourage people to break the law if they just couldn't be bothered to go to the doctor's office. At a time when I am counting on my local station to report scientifically supported data and calm people's fears about immunizations, this piece lead a huge disappointment.

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Avatar for user 'Claire Trageser'

Claire Trageser, KPBS Staff | January 2, 2014 at 10:16 p.m. ― 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I appreciate you all taking the time to comment. I in no way meant to recommend that people take a religious exemption to get around vaccine requirements--the story points out that there is such an exemption and then quotes an expert saying the religion box weakens the new law.

Jerry_L, I said parents would avoid the hassle of going to a doctor not to recommend that they do it, but to point out that some parents likely would lie about their religious beliefs. KPBS has done extensive reporting on vaccination rates in San Diego County, and I have reported the dangers of not vaccinating children and decreasing herd immunity. You can read that coverage here: http://www.kpbs.org/news/vaccines/

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Avatar for user 'muckapoo1'

muckapoo1 | January 3, 2014 at 3:44 p.m. ― 6 months, 3 weeks ago

An ignoramus is a mission accomplished by the people who only listen to public radio. There, Muckapoo has spoken.

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Avatar for user 'Reallyticked'

Reallyticked | January 5, 2014 at 11:46 a.m. ― 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I have never heard more irresponsible reporting anywhere! Ms. Tregaser, you claim your reporting is balanced. Why then was this radio piece all about how to skirt an important law that many responsible citizens of this state worked many hours to put in place? You should stay awake at night wondering if your report urged a parent to skirt the law and a child or his classmate came down with whooping cough, measles, or even meningitis! Utterly reprehensible!!

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | January 6, 2014 at 8:28 a.m. ― 6 months, 3 weeks ago

To everyone who thinks this story is irresponsible: The media is supposed to report the truth and that is what the reporter has done. Sorry if you don't like the truth and you would prefer to withhold information from the public and bury your head in the sand pretending there are no problems in the world.

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Avatar for user 'Sdteacher60'

Sdteacher60 | January 6, 2014 at 8:53 p.m. ― 6 months, 3 weeks ago

To JeanMarc: "Truth" in reporting means the reporter is able to relay facts without revealing bias. The choice of title "...but there's an out", phrasing, "there's a way around this new requirement" "if they (parents) just want to avoid the hassle of another trip to the doctor's office" (audio), and picture (child grimacing from what appears to be a very traumatic shot) all combine to create a very clear bias. That is what I believe to be irresponsible.

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Avatar for user 'bmather'

bmather | January 7, 2014 at 8:30 a.m. ― 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I too think that this piece was irresponsible journalism. The emphasis was clearly on skirting the requirement as SDteacher60 pointed out. I am disappointed in KPBS. We don't need anymore of this kind of journalism. There is way too much it on the commercial stations. Please think twice next time before you try to draw in readers with something like this or I may have to think twice about my contribution to KPBS.

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Avatar for user 'SweetSpot'

SweetSpot | January 7, 2014 at 8:33 a.m. ― 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Seriously poor reporting and choice of wording Ms. Tregeser. Makes my husband and I reconsider our annual pledge to KPBS. And where/who was your editor? Were they on vacation? Asleep? Hung over?

What's your next story? Pressure cooker recipes with the sign off, "of course pressure cookers could also be used for bombs when you add these four ingredients...".

Sheesh!

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Avatar for user 'Claire Trageser'

Claire Trageser, KPBS Staff | January 7, 2014 at 10:52 a.m. ― 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Commenters, once again, I apologize that my story created a different impression than I intended it to. It was merely meant to point out a weakness in the law, not to encourage people to exploit that weakness. I've done extensive coverage on the harm that can be caused by parents choosing not to vaccinate their children, and this story was meant only as an update on that coverage. I should have brought in more of my previous reporting on vaccines into this story so my point was made more strongly, and you all wouldn't have been left with the impression that I was encouraging people to skip vaccines.

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Avatar for user 'MattthewCScallon'

MattthewCScallon | January 7, 2014 at 12:50 p.m. ― 6 months, 3 weeks ago

@Claire Trageser, so protecting religious beliefs in the law is something you take as a, "weakness in the law?" That certainly explains a lot.

There are moral problems with different vaccines. The MMR vaccine in this country, for example, come from the cells of a murdered baby whose cells are continually kept alive in order to produce the vaccine --with the accompanying profits . Though such a vaccine can save a child's life, that only ameliorates the evil of murdering the baby. The UK has an MMR vaccine that doesn't depend upon the cells of a murdered baby, but the FDA refuses to approve its use in this country. And, so long as reporters such as yourself consider religious beliefs and moral discernment to be a, "weakness in the law," I don't see much hope in that changing.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | January 7, 2014 at 3:13 p.m. ― 6 months, 3 weeks ago

MathewCScallon - The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, komrad.

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Avatar for user 'muckapoo1'

muckapoo1 | January 8, 2014 at 7:12 p.m. ― 6 months, 2 weeks ago

C'mon folks. Claire has stated twice that this was not the intent of her article. Give her a break. Have you never been mistaken??

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | January 10, 2014 at 8:44 a.m. ― 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Mr. Scallon, people's person freedoms and liberties can be exercised freely, however at certain junctures when they begin to encroach on other people's freedoms and liberties, parameters need to be set.

I disagree with you very much, but I respect your right to your beliefs and to practice whatever religion you choose. But why should your religious liberties be allowed to stifle the liberties of parents who want their children to be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases ?

It's a balancing act.

Muckapoo, Claire was not mistaken. Some people who were interpreting this story in a manner in which it was not written were mistaken.

There is a difference between objective reporting on a flaw and encouraging exploitation of said flaw, albeit sometimes a fine distinction. I read the article and saw no editorializing on her part just reporting the facts on what this poorly written law will do.

Anger should be directed towards those who wrote it the law, not those reporting on it.

THIS SHOWS WHO THE ANGER SHOULD BE DIRECTED AT, Mr. BROWN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"This religious exemption was added by Gov. Jerry Brown when he signed the law."

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Avatar for user 'MattthewCScallon'

MattthewCScallon | January 14, 2014 at 6:02 p.m. ― 6 months, 2 weeks ago

@Peking_Duck_SD, why should the evil perpetrated for profit by Big Pharma be rewarded with shoddy reporting? Why can't this same reporter bother herself to question why the FDA refuses to approve a morally acceptable form of the MMR rather than rail against said moral positions against morally objectionable vaccines?

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Avatar for user 'brothersun'

brothersun | February 16, 2014 at 8:58 p.m. ― 5 months, 1 week ago

In WW2 Germany, if the Nazis came to your door and asked if you are hiding any Jews, is it immoral to lie in that case? This is actually a perfect analogy, because the pro-vaxers are like the Nazis who honestly believe they have the moral high-ground, because that is how they were indoctrinated. In reality, they are causing much suffering and death. Once one understands that the theory of vaccination is incorrect, and they have never provided any protection from disease --yes, it's all been a massive PR/marketing hoax on the part of vaccine makers-- and that the chances of serious injury or death is much greater in the vaccinated, then all the Nazi-like posturing is seen as the evil it is. A much greater evil than lying to them when they come knocking on your door. All you pro-vaxers really need to do some independant research. The truth is well known at the highest levels of government, but is being suppressed because politicians, medical journals, and news media have been bought. To learn more, see BoughtMovie.com

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Avatar for user 'Youre_Robots'

Youre_Robots | March 10, 2014 at 12:42 p.m. ― 4 months, 2 weeks ago

It's against my religion, and frankly I'm one of a growing number of parents who didn't get all those "shots" and I'm free of disease. I don't have MS like my cousins who had all their vaccinations. Once it's realized that depopulation was always the intended goal,people will already by sterile from all the exposure to petroleum products and it will be too late to wake up.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | March 10, 2014 at 2:51 p.m. ― 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Youre_Robots... your paranoia is impressive, your delusions are a symptom of schizophrenia. Be careful...

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Avatar for user 'NaomiG'

NaomiG | March 21, 2014 at 10:19 p.m. ― 4 months, 1 week ago

To every one who is worried about "herd immunity", have you ever pondered the logic in that?

http://www.vaccinationcouncil.org/2012/02/18/the-deadly-impossibility-of-herd-immunity-through-vaccination-by-dr-russell-blaylock/

And Youre_Robots, thank you! If every parent took the time to watch this MUST-SEE documentary, my guess is there'd be a lot less parents vaccinating if any.

"Silent Epidemic: The Untold Story of Vaccines"

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