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Will all the California anti-vaxers move to Colorado?

Phil Mohler, M.D.
MOHLER’S MEDICATION MAXIMS
Free Press Health Columnist

The California protesters railed that the legislation was a violation of religious liberty and an infringement of parental rights. Actor Jim Carrey called Governor Brown a “corporate fascist.” But what would you expect from someone who has co-habitated with Jenny “vaccines = autism” McCarty? Carrey co-habitated with Jenny, not Brown.

In signing California Senate Bill 277 on June 30, Governor Jerry Brown framed the childhood vaccine controversy fairly. “The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against infectious and dangerous diseases. While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.”

The California law, now one of the strongest in the nation, eliminated both religious and philosophical exemptions to immunizing children. Effective July 1, 2015, no immunizations, no school. The law covers preschool kids as well as K-12 for both public and private schools. California is the 32nd state to eliminate the personal exemption. It is the third, along with Mississippi and West Virginia to put an end to religious exemptions to vaccination. The sponsor of the California bill, a pediatrician whose life was threatened for his promotion of the legislation, allowed a “grandfather clause” for those kids who have a current personal exemption. California moms who choose not to immunize their kids can 1) home school their offspring or 2) move to Colorado, where avoiding immunization is as easy as signing your name.



Whither Colorado?

Colorado remains one of the eighteen states that cling to the personal and religious exemption mantras. In Colorado, only 82 percent of children have both doses of Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccines. This is the lowest percentage in the nation! In Mississippi which grants vaccine exemptions for only medical reasons, 99.7 percent of children have received both doses. Question: Which city is more likely to experience a measles outbreak, Jackson or Junction?



The Colorado legislature has been effectively shut down in attempts to toughen the childhood immunization laws. The Colorado Board of Health did agree to impose an annual “opt out” parental signature. This will certainly make our District 51 school nurses job more complicated, but I doubt it will have a significant impact on immunization rates.

Herd Immunity

If 92-94 percent of a population is immunized, measles will not spread. If the “herd immunity” level is less than 90 percent, there are red spots ahead.

In Mesa County, only 12 of 27 elementary schools have measles immunization rates at or above 92 percent. With immunization rates below 80 percent, Juniper Ridge and Mesa Valley Community School kids are particularly at risk.

Should Mom Call the Shots?

I have always believed that mothers make really good decisions for their children. They often have instinctual feelings about their own kids that trump medical judgment. At times, however, rare events and celebrity opinion overwhelm common sense in all of us. Physicians need to do a better job of presenting the cons, as well as the pros, of immunizations. Further, we all need to recognize the risks that an inadequately immunized group of kids foists on those too young to be immunized and those who have legitimate medical reasons not to be immunized.

Free Press health columnist Dr. Mohler has practiced family medicine in Grand Junction for 39 years. He has a particular interest in pharmaceutical education. Phil works part-time for Rocky Mountain Health Plans. Email him at nancyandphilmohler@gmail.com.


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