New vaccination law draws federal lawsuits in California

Brian Zimmerman -

A new California law designed to bolster immunization requirements for school children has inspired at least three lawsuits, according to Capitol Weekly.

The law, which went into effect on July 1, bars parents from opting out of vaccinating their children for religious or personal objections, limiting the avenues for vaccine avoidance in the state to home schooling and physician-sanctioned medical exemption.

Accusations leveled by lawsuits against the new requirement range from assertions that the law will deny children their right to an education to worries over vaccine safety.

"It's crazy that they're taking away a child's education and saying that's a good thing," Rebecca Estepp, a spokesperson for Education for All, told Capitol Weekly. Education for All is nonprofit that has filed suit seeking an injunction against the law in a federal court in San Diego. Ms. Estepp added that California law requires all home schooling to be conducted in English, which all state residents do not speak.

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"I want to put the vaccine ingredients on trial," said Travis Middleton, who along with 25 other plaintiffs has filed suit against the law in federal court in Los Angeles. The suit argues vaccines are toxic. "They don't allow parents' right to choose a medical procedure even though people are being harmed by it. Let everybody know that the citizens are rising up to fight this draconian bill."

A third lawsuit filed by Attorney T. Matthew Phillips argues that the new law violates first amendment rights and wrongly discriminates against unvaccinated children.

"I am a hard-core vaccine abolitionist," Mr. Phillips told Capitol Weekly. "I hold the individual above the group. I think individual lives come first."

The new law was partly inspired by recent outbreaks of preventable diseases in parts of the state with low vaccination rates. According to Capitol Weekly, counties in California with low kindergarten vaccination rates include Trinity County (77 percent), Nevada County (77.1 percent) and Tuolumne County (77.7 percent). Maintaining herd immunity requires 92 percent of a population to be vaccinated.

Richard Pan, MD, a state senator and a pediatrician, said the law is designed to protect the health of all children in California. "It's not about choice; it's about the safety of other children at school."

With the new law, California became one of only three states to prohibit parents from opting out of required vaccinations for religious or personal beliefs, according to Capitol Weekly. The other two states are West Virginia and Mississippi.

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