California has some of the toughest vaccine laws on the books in the world. Opting to not vaccinate your public school child based on religious or spiritual beliefs has been eliminated, which most assumed would be the end of any potential anti-vaccine campaigns in the state. But that hasn't turned out to be the case. In fact, anti-vaccine proponents of all walks (partial, full, vaccine safety proponents) have proven that such restrictions won't be thwarting their beliefs and parental choice. And this is either for the better, or for the worse, depending on how you look at things.
For starters, those choosing to skip some or all vaccines and still place their children in public schools have found a safe haven in the medical community, which is of the deepest irony considering that mainstream media outlets often paint doctors as the strongest of vaccine advocates.
Public health advocates are still concerned that doctors are writing improper exemptions to get kids out of vaccines. The number of children with medical exemptions tripled last year, and dozens of complaints against physicians have been filed with the Medical Board of California.
But the way California law addresses medical exemptions has created a challenge for officials, experts say. It leaves the decision of whether a child should be allowed to skip vaccines fully up to the doctor.
Doctors giving medical exemptions to parents for their children's vaccines and doctors being anti-vaccine don't have to be mutually exclusive. Doctors can still be vaccine supporters, but deem a child's health unsafe for vaccines. Or, doctors could be leary of vaccine safety in general. The devil that's in the details could predict what lies ahead for parents of school children in the state. And it is murky waters.
If the state wants to push its agenda forward, it would be unlikely that it would remove the medical exemption. This would leave the only opportunity for regulation as a matter of increased pressure on medical professionals. In other words, the state might choose to bully the very doctors it has praised for years as being experts in the field of vaccines. This means the state would need to take a supremely hypocritical position in the matter. Let's face it, the state is not beyond such things. And the herd would likely never hold the state accountable for such endeavors.
There is a precedent, in some ways, if we look at history. While most of the country has allowed the medical community to cater to pharmaceutical agendas by pushing more and more medications, antibiotic prescribing (and now opioid prescribing) practices have come under fire over the years. In other words, it is possible for the state to find ways to add pressure via statistical expectations on vaccines. They could say, "no more than X percent of patients should ever receive medical exemption, beyond that, deeper explanations are needed"). Doctors with higher rates of vaccine exemptions could simply be ousted as a way to influence the overall trend. If doctors feel their livelihood is threatened by seeing other doctors lose their careers, they likely begin catering to the state's agenda. And the state could paint doctors giving medical exemptions similar to doctors who have underground painkiller businesses, or those who write disability waivers allowing people to falsely make claims for government subsidy programs. Again, the devil would be in the details.
On the good side of things, it could be that this leads more people to realize that vaccines, in all cases, might present inadequate safety. This could cause more parents to reconsider their stances. This also creates a sturdy and formidable position for those concerned with vaccine safety, or for those who oppose mandatory vaccine laws. We often forget many parents who choose to vaccinate their children do not accept the idea of the state's mandatory position in the matter.
One thing is for sure, the fight continues in a state that likely thought it was over. And that's likely to serve as new embers in what should likely be a bigger fight over a polarizing matter.