The law mandates all children in public and private schools to receive vaccinations against ten acute, contagious diseases and removes an exemption for inoculation based on parents’ personal beliefs.
US District Judge Dana Sabraw said in refusing to block the law,
Society has a compelling interest in fighting the spread of contagious diseases through mandatory vaccination of school-age children.
The injunction was sought by 17 parents and four organizations against vaccinations.
One of the rights invoked by those opposing the law, the right to freely practice one’s religion, “does not outweigh the state’s interest in public health and safety,” according to Sabraw.
A measles outbreak in 2014 prompted the creation of the law. The disease was traced back to children at Disneyland who had not been vaccinated. Implemented last month, this law makes California the third state — following West Virginia and Mississippi — to require children in school to undergo inoculation against measles, mumps, rubella, and tetanus, disregarding parents’ religious or personal beliefs. Only those with doctor-certified medical exemptions and physically challenged students in special education programs are allowed to skip vaccination.
The measure obligates all children to be vaccinated, and also requires parents to submit immunization records when a student enters kindergarten or seventh grade. This means kids with previous parental exemption don’t have to be inoculated until seventh grade and exempted eighth-grade students or higher don’t need to get vaccinated at all.
Those behind the lawsuit cite 33,000 students in California whose parents are against vaccination and are enrolling their children in kindergarten or seventh grade, who will be denied admittance unless they agree to vaccination.
Robert Moxley, attorney for the plaintiffs, announced that the law “has made second-class citizens out of children who for very compelling reasons are not vaccinated.” Anti-vaccine groups and parents filed the lawsuit after failing to qualify for a state ballot referendum to stop the law.
Sabraw said that the California Supreme Court had upheld compulsory vaccination for students as far back as 1890. He also mentioned a US Supreme Court ruling from 1944 in Massachusetts that banned a young girl from handing out religious pamphlets on public streets in direct violation of the state’s child-labor law. The family invoked religious freedom, but the court decided that the case “does not include liberty to expose the community or the child to communicable disease.”
The judge added that the right to education, which California law staunchly protects, must consider the public interest in protecting children’s health.
State Senator Richard Pan, who sponsored the vaccine bill, was happy with the ruling and stated that stronger vaccination requirements are making schools safer.