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Is California serious about enforcing vaccinations?

The anti-vaccine movement was supposedly dealt a hard blow in California back in 2016 when the state passed a law preventing parents from refusing to vaccinate their children based on personal or religious beliefs alone.

In effect, while the law has pushed thousands of parents to get their children vaccinated now that simply claiming personal or religious objections to vaccines won't qualify for an exemption, the law has a loophole for the determined that's big enough to toss a whole box of needles through.

The state cannot review the doctor's reasoning if a doctor does grant the exemption -- only whether or not the paperwork is properly filled out.

Accordingly, there are doctors who are willing to provide those requests to any parent that asks based on dubious medical reasoning like "history of eczema" somewhere in the family.

Since there's no specific criteria that's required to grant the exclusion, doctors only need to justify their reasoning to themselves. That means parents determined to avoid vaccines only have to look around hard enough to find a doctor who either agrees with their movement or who doesn't care why the parent wants the exemption and will sign the form.

Accordingly, some California schools have more than ten percent of their kindergartners without vaccines. Most doctors estimate that only 3 percent of people might have a valid reason for avoiding vaccinations.

Still, complaints have been lodged against a few doctors. One anti-vaccination "superstar" doctor, Robert Sears, still has to face a medical board next year, and 51 other doctors have had investigations launched against them -- although about half already have been cleared without action.

According to some parents, that has many family doctors afraid to write exemptions even for legitimate reasons. That can make it hard when parents have a trusted physician they want to keep but really believe the exemption is important for their child -- especially if fear of being put under a microscope is the only thing holding the doctor back.

If you're a physician who feels caught in the middle, you can always learn more about your legal options and rights under the current laws. That can make avoiding a licensing investigation a lot easier and allow you to make informed decisions without fear.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Why hasn't California cracked down on anti-vaccination doctors?," Soumya Karlamangla, Nov. 06, 2017

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