On July 1, 2016, a new law signed by Governor Jerry Brown went into effect that required all children enrolled in public or private schools to have met a set number of vaccinations to attend school. This effectively removed the right of parents to personally deem their children vaccine exempt because of personal or religious beliefs. The law requires a medical doctor specifically (and only an MD or DO) to assess and provide a medical exemption based on a set of suggested criteria put forth by the government to allow a child to participate in a delayed vaccination schedule or be entirely vaccine exempt.
When the California state vaccine requirements became law, many parents of current school age or young children not yet in a daycare or school program had tremendous fear, anxiety, and trouble clearly understanding the specifications of the law. At the time the law came into effect and up until January 1, 2017, parents could file a ‘personal belief exemption’ with their child’s school and retain control over their child’s vaccination schedule until the next age-defined vaccination checkpoint which takes place upon entering daycare or preschool, kindergarten, and 7th grade. However, for parents who did not file a personal belief vaccine exemption prior to January 1, this option is no longer available.
The current state vaccine requirements to enter private or public school are as follows:
It is worth noting that vaccination requirements diminish as children age, most specifically after 4 years of age. If a child is on a delayed schedule or has not yet been vaccinated, waiting until 4 years for full vaccination can reduce the total number of injections required. Navigating parental rights over state-mandated vaccination requirements requires education, personal advocating, and an MD or DO well versed in current state laws and delayed schedules. Although not all parents are interested in delayed schedules, many who are upset by the new law are seeking additional information about the exact requirements and specifications of the law.
To obtain a medical vaccination exemption, a child must have four first degree relatives (parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts/uncles, first cousins) that have documented diagnosis of adverse vaccine reactions, autoimmune disease, asthma, significant food or environmental allergies, or have any of these conditions themselves.
There are a few other ways to reduce the number of vaccine requirements. One technique is by participating in a delayed schedule via medical doctor or school administration approval until a child is 4-5 years of age. A second technique is to test for adequate antibody response to vaccinated diseases after the third injection to validate that adequate immune response to diseases has been established with vaccines. Third, if a child has been previously exposed to a disease such as Varicella (chicken pox), a test can also be run to verify adequate immunity to future infection. Fourth, only the initial inoculations are required to enter school with a verified plan to obtain future vaccines by specific dates according to an appropriate schedule, as a child can begin vaccines and complete them during the school year.
Parents who are not interested in obtaining the vaccinations and adhering to the requirements set forth by the state to begin public or private school, or who do not qualify for a medical exemption, are limited to home school as their only means of formal education. There are no other options.
Supporting education of the new vaccine laws is supporting families in all of their choices. Parents have a right to make healthy decisions based on their values for the health of their family.
Dr. Shannon Sinsheimer is state licensed naturopathic doctor with a focus on fertility, family wellness, and pre-conception health. She can be reached at Optimal Health Center (760) 568.2598.