Black Lawmakers Hear From Opposing Sides on Calif. Vaccine Bill
Black lawmakers in California are being pressured by groups on both sides of a debate over a bill (SB 277) that would end personal belief exemptions to childhood vaccination requirements in the state, the Los Angeles Times' "PolitiCal" reports (McGreevy, "PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 6/22).
Background on SB 277
The bill would end personal belief exemptions to the state's childhood vaccination requirements.
However, it has been amended to:
- Allow unvaccinated children to enroll in private home-schooling programs that serve multiple families, rather than programs that serve just one family;
- Permit such children to participate in independent study projects that are overseen by school districts but do not include classroom time; and
- Remove a provision that would have required schools to inform parents of immunization rates.
The bill was approved by the state Senate in May. In June, the Assembly Committee on Health approved SB 277, sending it to a vote on the Assembly floor (California Healthline, 6/19).
According to "PolitiCal," the Assembly could vote on the measure on Thursday.
Nation of Islam Opposes Measure
In a recent speech and an interview on Monday with the Times, Nation of Islam Western Regional Minister Tony Muhammad said that some religious leaders are concerned that vaccines could harm the health of young black males.
He cited a study -- which "PolitiCal" notes has been widely rejected -- that indicated cases of autism might be more common among black male children who are vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella.
Meanwhile, Muhammad said that black lawmakers will face community backlash if they support the bill, adding, "They will not be welcome in the black community if they vote like that."
Coalition Supports Bill
However, a coalition of black advocacy organizations on Monday issued a statement countering Muhammad's comments.
The coalition included the:
- California Black Health Network;
- California State Conference of the NAACP;
- Charles R. Drew Medical Society;
- National Coalition of 100 Black Women; and
- Network of Ethnic Physician Organizations.
The coalition said, "Unfortunately, recent attacks on the [vaccine] measure have been vicious, unfounded and distort the science and history of childhood immunization within our community," adding, "As legislative deliberations continue, we hope the California Legislative Black Caucus members know that recriminations against those supporting the bill by opponents do not represent us."
Calif. Legislative Black Caucus Stands by Votes
Meanwhile, the caucus in a statement said, "We feel that SB 277 was thoroughly vetted, and we stand by the positions of our individual members on the measure" ("PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 6/22).
Group Protests SB 277
In related news, a group of anti-mandatory vaccination advocates this weekend protested SB 277 in Berkeley after the city passed a resolution in support of the measure, the Sacramento Bee's "Capitol Alert" reports.
The group has said that the bill is a constitutional issue and that state lawmakers should stand against the measure (Holzman, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 6/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.