How will California’s new vaccine exemption standards impact parental attitudes?

    Listen
     (Photo via ShutterStock: http://shutr.bz/1FRvF85)

    (Photo via ShutterStock: http://shutr.bz/1FRvF85)

    California passed a hotly contested law this week which bans the use of religious and personal belief exemptions from vaccinations. Now parents can no longer opt out of certain vaccines for their kids who attend public or private schools.

    This all comes on the heels of a measles outbreak that started at Disneyland.

    How will this impact the vaccine wars in other states, and affect parental attitudes?

    Alison Buttenheim, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, studies attitudes toward vaccines.

    “On the one hand I’m very excited to see it pass, it should lead to fewer kids having exemptions and more kids being vaccinated and that’s a good thing,” says Buttenheim. “On the other hand it’s a pretty dramatic step in a state like California that has a fairly high exemption rate.”

    Only two other states, Mississippi and West Virginia also have no exemption rules in place.

    There will still be a few situations the new law won’t necessarily apply to.

    “If you’re a parent and feel that there’s a medical reason why your child shouldn’t be vaccinated, that form of exemption will still be available in CA,” Buttenheim says.

    Also, if a child gets an exemption in place before January 2016, they will also be excused.

    Other than that, parents will need to produce a vaccine record in order to enroll their kids in public or private schools.

    “Generally Americans don’t respond well when they perceive some kind of freedom being taken away. What’s harder to frame is the freedom, for example, that a child who is undergoing cancer treatment and can’t be vaccinated–should that child have the freedom to attend school and know that the kids around him or her are vaccinated?” added Buttenheim.

    “It just comes down to how you frame these freedoms and which ones you prioritize.”

    The new law will go into effect in July of 2016.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.