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'No Immunizations, No School' For Returning LAUSD Students
School starts Tuesday for the nation's second-largest school district, and if your kids aren't vaccinated they won't be allowed in class.
SB 277—California's hard-line vaccination law—was signed by Governor Jerry Brown last June, but it didn't officially go into effect until 2016, meaning this is the first school year where personal and religious exemptions for vaccines will no longer be allowed be for California school children. More specifically, the law requires that any child who attends a public or private school, or goes to a daycare center be vaccinated unless they have a medical exemption, meaning that the more than a half-million students returning to LAUSD schools must show proof that they are fully vaccinated before they can attend class, according to KTLA.
The new law is particularly relevant in L.A., where people have opted out of vaccinating their kids en masse in recent years, leading some wealthy Westside schools to have vaccination rates on par with those seen in developing countries (See Gary Baum's excellent 2014 Hollywood Reporter feature on the matter for a full account).
The reason vaccinations work is because of something called "herd immunity"—if enough people are vaccinated, then even children too young for immunizations and those who can't be vaccinated because of health issues will still be protected. The Centers for Disease Control states that 95% of the population needs to be vaccinated in order to maintain herd immunity; according to the Daily News, Los Angeles County has a vaccination rate of just 90% for kindergarteners. Without vaccinations and herd immunity, we backtrack on decades of public health advances and end up with a completely preventable Measles outbreak at Disneyland. The 2015 Measles outbreak, which ultimately sickened 147 people, proved to be a catalyst for lawmakers, and helped spur the passage of SB 277.
"There are enough unpreventable dangers to your kid in any given day. It was extremely reassuring that the legislature did this, not just for the kids at school but also for the younger kids at home who aren't fully vaccinated until a certain age," Seamus Garrity, an LAUSD parent who campaigned for SB 277, told LAist. "You worry about your older kid bringing something home to the baby," Garrity, who has a kindergartener and a 19-month-old, said.
LAUSD has been doing their part to get students ready for the mandate. According to Fox 11, the the state's largest school district opened up 14 clinics at the beginning of August to provide immunizations, and students and their parents "have been parading into these clinics trying to beat the deadline."
"The law is no immunizations, no school," LAUSD Nursing Coordinator Roberta Villanueva told the station.
Despite the obvious public health benefit of mandatory immunizations, anti-vaxxers are nothing if not persistent, and SB 277 opponents are currently fighting to overturn the law in court. A federal judge has said that he will issue a ruling in the case within the next week, according to the Daily News.
"These are flat-world people," my former pediatrician Dr. Robert Landaw (what up Dr. Bob!) told Baum in 2014, in regards to vaccination opponents. "They're speaking against science."