Parents Cringe Over Vaccine Bill
Assemblyman Bill Monning says freedom is not the issue.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Assemblyman Bill Monning, D-Carmel, presided over a heated hearing April 17 for a bill opponents are casting as an attack on parental choice.
AB 2109 would require a doctor’s permission to let parents opt out of children’s vaccinations before enrolling them in public school.
“This bill is about making it more difficult for parents to exercise their right under the law to a personal-beliefs exemption from vaccination,” said Dawn Winkler, California co-director of the National Vaccine Information Center. “Parents will not be able to obtain the signature of a health-care practitioner for this exemption.”
But Monning, chair of the Assembly Health Committee, said it’s important to bear in mind the bill mandates counseling, not vaccination. “The critical thing to understand: This does not remove the right of families to make a choice they feel is best for their child,” he says.
AB 2109 was introduced by a physician, Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, and sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics, California Medical Association and Health Officers Association of California.
At the hearing, the strong show of support for the bill included an infectious disease expert, representatives of doctors’ unions and the California Pharmacy Association. An equally passionate opposition included Winkler, celebrity pediatrician Bob Sears and scores of parents and students.
Thirty to 40 percent of doctors in the American Academy of Pediatrics kick out patients who choose not to vaccinate their children, Sears told the committee. “While I support vaccination,” he said, “I also support vaccination choice.”
The bill passed out of committee by a 10-4 vote, with Monning’s support. It heads next to the Assembly floor.