The start of a new school year is finally upon us, and for many parents, that means a mile-long to-do list that includes buying supplies, pulling the backpacks out of storage and picking out new clothes for fall. It also means it’s time for yearly physicals and making sure kids’ vaccine records are up to date. Almost 150 parents in Sacramento failed to do just that, and they were stunned on the first day of school when their kids were told they couldn’t come to class.
The Folsom Cordova Unified School District reportedly sent home 145 students who failed to provide proof that they got their vaccines. The move was part of a new state law that took effect in California at the beginning of July. Per the new law, personal and religious beliefs are no longer an acceptable way to get around the state’s vaccine mandate for attending public schools.
The law was proposed after the infamous measles outbreak that started at Disneyland in 2015. Barring a medical exemption, all students are now required to provide their school administrators with up-to-date vaccination records in kindergarten, and then again when they reach seventh grade. Of the 145 Sacramento students who failed to do this, around 47 either turned in their records immediately or got shots so they could return to class. But, a whopping 98 kids and their parents still haven’t rectified the situation, and it’s safe to say some vaccine-averse parents probably never will.
Eliminating personal and religious belief exemptions for vaccines is a controversial move to some, but it shouldn’t be. Science overwhelmingly supports the efficacy of vaccines and, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, they’re one of the “safest, most effective and most important medical innovations of our time.” Requiring vaccines in order to attend public school is a necessary step that protects not only the kids getting the shots, but also infants, the immunocompromised, and anyone else in the community who can’t be vaccinated for a legitimate medical reason.
Obviously, no one can force someone to get vaccinated, and there will always be naysayers who deny the science surrounding vaccines. But, the bottom line is vaccines are a matter of public health. Personal beliefs do not trump public safety, and if parents want their children to be able to attend public schools, they need to get on board with their area’s vaccine requirements.
Vaccines work, and they’re our best line of defense against diseases like polio or the mumps that used to harm thousands of healthy kids. As parents, we have a responsibility to our children, to each other and to our communities to do what it takes to promote health and safety for all. Vaccines are an integral part of that, and “personal beliefs” are simply not a good enough reason to put children at risk.