New California legislation annuls‭ ‬former immunization exemptions

Cough. Sneeze. Flu season. Students are sick, and, for some, it maybe due to that fact that they do not have their vaccinations.

Sometimes, it’s the religious values upheld in their family and culture. For others, it’s their medical health which restricts them from immunizations due to the fact they are too young or recovering from illnesses and treatment such as chemotherapy or surgery. For many students, these exemptions are due to a personal belief in which students and parents believe vaccines causing autism.

In crowded areas like Disneyland or schools, those who are unvaccinated have the potential to spread diseases to each other more quickly. In Anaheim, California, a measles outbreak occurred due to large crowds in Disneyland.

In efforts to mitigate the spread of diseases that have been eradicated in the past and to take action after the breakout, the state of California is looking into preventing schools from accepting the personal beliefs as a reason to be unvaccinated. This law was enacted as of April 9, 2015 in the state of California.

California is not the only state with outbreaks of measles in 2015. In January, a confirmed measles case was discovered in Des Plaines, IL as well.

While there are school requirements for vaccinations, students are able to opt out with a note from a parent or guardian for religious reasons or a doctor’s note for medical reasons. School nurse Cheryl Knight hopes that this law will promote a safer school as it will require more students to be vaccinated before attending school. Knight also hopes the vaccinations will create a school where students are not as susceptible to viruses thus having fewer sick days during the school year.

Vaccinations have allowed the society to eliminate diseases such as polio and measles, however recently these diseases have reemerged in certain areas due to a low herd immunization percentage, school nurse, Pam Kiefer said.

According to Vaccines Today, herd immunization is when immunity is developed in a large percentage of the population that accounts for those who are unable to get vaccinations. In the past, 95 percent of the population was a part of this group; however in recent years, this number has decreased significantly, Kiefer said.

In recent years, new studies and beliefs against vaccinations have erupted around the country with anti-vaccination campaigns leading many to opt out of vaccines. However, many times these myths are untrue and lead to rumors, Kiefer said.

“I fear there is a generation of people that don’t remember what polio is,” Kiefer said.

As of right now, the laws in Illinois are similar to those in California. Students are able to be exempt from vaccinations with either a medical note or a religious one. However, the personal belief exemption is not accepted in Illinois, said Amanda Simhauser, Illinois State Board of Education spokeswoman.

Since the 2009-2010 school year, religious exemptions have been increasing from .1-.2 percent in the state of Illinois to .5 percent in public schools during the 2013-2014 school year and 1.0-1.1 percent in nonpublic schools.

Earlier this year, a resolution was proposed to limit the religious exemption process, Simhauser said. If this legislation passes, parents and guardians would be required to meet with a doctor to discuss the risks should the child be requested to be exempt from vaccines. This issue has also taken force in the federal level with Senate Bill 1410 which would increase the requirements that would be necessary for a religious or medical exemption.

For the 2015-2016 school year, incoming seniors will also be required to add an additional meningitis vaccine to their list, Kiefer said. The meningitis vaccine was added to protect students when they went to college as the strain is found to be common in close proximities.

Immunizations have become a large part of today’s society, Madhavi Murali ’16 said. As an executive member of the Future Doctors of America club, Murali believes in the research behind the immunizations. While it may go against religious or personal beliefs, Murali believes that vaccinations are important to the well being of the whole community as well.

“There’s always a risk for anything but, regarding vaccinations, the benefits are greater than the risk,”  said Murali.