California Legislators Move to End Personal Exemption
By Doug Porter
The most recent outbreak of measles appears to be abating, and that’s good news. Sadly, the “debate” over the “rights” of parents who chose to opt out of vaccinations continues. Debate is all well and good, but this is clearly a case where government needs to intervene to protect the public.
Yesterday a bicameral group of legislators announced they were proposing legislation eliminating the personal belief exemption for vaccinations in California. State Senators Dr. Richard Pan and Ben Allen along with Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) say they will move to require immunizations in all school age children with exceptions allowed only for medical reasons.
Dr. Pan told reporters he was open to discussion about keeping the religious exemption.
What we’ve learned over the past few weeks is that characterizing those opposing standard childhood vaccinations as right or left wing is really just a distraction. Data dumps by well-meaning public health officials and public shaming aren’t getting the job done.
From the Wall Street Journal:
The percentage of incoming California kindergarten students in the current school year whose parents declined vaccinations for measles and other diseases dropped to 2.5% from 3.2% in 2013, the first decrease since 2002, according to a recent state assessment.
The numbers, nevertheless, remain much higher than in 2002, when parents of only 1.2% of the incoming students rejected the vaccinations, according to the assessment.
All states permit exemptions for medical reasons. All but two let parents refuse to vaccinate their children because of their religious convictions, according to the latest tally from the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The California Department of Public Health announced Wednesday that the number of confirmed cases of measles in the state since an outbreak began in December at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim has reached 99.
UT-San Diego editorialized about the latest outbreak, pointing out that anti-vaxxers were to be found across the political spectrum, including some notable local politicians on the right wing end of the spectrum:
These sort of pronouncements about the alleged unhealthiness of vaccinations — amplified, unfortunately, by the megaphone provided by Oprah Winfrey on her old TV show — resonate with the cultural left. Author Seth Mnookin reports public health officials have told him — presumably with a straight face — that areas with Whole Foods stores are likely to have low vaccination rates. A Washington Post analysis found wealthy whites who voted for President Obama were the cornerstone of the anti-vaccination movement.
Unfortunately, there’s also an anti-vaccination movement on the right that doesn’t realize it’s an anti-vaccination movement. We refer to the Republican politicians who accept the glib framing that the central question in this debate is about parental rights, not public health.
It’s not just GOP presidential candidates Rand Paul and Chris Christie. In 2012, a reasonable bill to limit exemptions from vaccinations passed the California Legislature on what were very close to party-line votes. Among those opposed were four local Republicans: state Sens. Joel Anderson and Mark Wyland and Assembly members Martin Garrick and Brian Jones.
Denialism isn’t Changed by Confrontation
Our local daily is publicly soliciting parents who have decided not to vaccinate their children, saying they want to “get your side of the story.” I guess the paper feels the “need” to add some local flavor to the debate.
Of much more interest to me is the reporting I’ve seen over the past few days about why the anti-vaxxers (and other science denial-types) aren’t likely to be persuaded by confrontation.
NPR’s Morning Edition recently featured social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam in a fascinating discussion about the psychology of denialism.
He cited studies finding messages touting the health benefits and the safety of vaccines are ineffective with parents resistant to immunization programs and potentially counterproductive as they became less likely to want to vaccinate their children.
Now, a lot of people who study human behavior and have thought deeply about how you get people to change their beliefs think that coercion and shaming people is not the way to go. The way to go is actually to build relationships and build trust. You know, David, when my child has a nightmare, I don’t come to her in the middle of the night and say, look, you’re a moron for believing there’s a monster under your bed. I acknowledge that the fear might be real, even if there’s no monster under the bed. And we – I sort of help her deal with the fear.
So what we know for sure is that the parents who are not vaccinating their kids are afraid. So the place to start might be to acknowledge that fear is real and to deal with it. So when doctors and public health officials start from there – when they start from the heart and not from the head, they might actually make more headway in getting parents to vaccinate their children.
Nathanael Jackson at Grist.org has a slightly different take:
Vaccine hesitancy is a natural symptom of a medical system that values technical fixes but not relationships. Imagine if patients knew their doctors well enough to trust that their recommendations were not some one-size-fits-all guideline, but what was really best for their family. Imagine if doctors and patients truly felt that they had considered the risks and benefits of each treatment collaboratively, until they confidently reached a mutual decision. If doctors could truly know each patient as an individual, and patients truly trusted their doctors, this whole vaccine-refusal issue would vanish like a puff of smoke.
This sounds expensive. But the most expensive parts of our healthcare system — treating patients at the end of life, and treating diet-related diseases — are expensive precisely because we default to technical fixes rather than investing in relationships, culture, and coaching.
Not every solution has to be so warm and fuzzy. Shaming people doesn’t help, but it does work to pass sensible laws that nudge people toward becoming a responsible member of the common-health. It makes a lot of sense for a society to make rules to protect itself from people who make dangerous choices. For example: I think I should be allowed to decide that vaccination isn’t right for my family, but the public doesn’t need to accept the risk of allowing my family in schools. If I decide that stopping at stoplights isn’t right for my family, society would eventually tell me that I needed to stay off public roads.
Alvarez, Gloria Oppose SDG&E Rate Changes
The San Diego City Council’s Environment Committee voted along party lines yesterday, passing a resolution opposing changes SDG&E rate structure.
Councilmen David Alvarez and Todd Gloria held a press conference earlier in the day to voice their concerns.
“We’re concerned because SDG&E customers who are most effective at conserving energy are going to be punished by this rate. And the customers who do not conserve are going to be rewarded,” he [Alvarez] said.
Gloria said the changes would counter the goals outlined in the city’s Climate Action Plan.
“Energy conservation should be incentivized for the long-term benefit of our environment and the proposed rate changes seem to do the exact opposite,” Gloria said.
A spokesperson for the utility company said the opposite was true, claiming higher tiered customers living away from the coastline would benefit from the new system.
The committee resolution opposing the changes will now be heard by the full City Council. The final say, however, lies with California Public Utilities Commission.
More Bad News for Stadium Boosters
The Obama administration’s tax proposal before Congress contains language barring professional sports facilities from financing construction with lower-cost, tax-exempt municipal bonds.
From UT-San Diego:
“The current structuring of government bonds to finance sports facilities has shifted more of the costs and risks from private owners to local residents and taxpayers in general,” the U.S. Treasury said in an analysis of the new budget.
Obama’s proposal seems to have found favor with economists who have long believed that stadiums do little to benefit cities financially and therefore are not worth the large public subsidies that have historically been invested in such projects.
Meanwhile over at City Beat, John Lamb brought to light a city-funded study from 2012 favoring hefty taxpayer funding as a source of funding for a new football stadium. The Sanders administration apparently never actually officially accepted the report as a ploy to keep it exempt from public record requests.
…three sources have confirmed that report never saw the light of day, because the Chargers objected to the “x hundreds of millions” of taxpayer dollars the report suggested would be needed to make the plan work, as one source put it.
“My understanding is the reason they didn’t release it is because the Chargers were extremely unhappy with the findings,” the source said. “But it basically answers all the questions that are being raised about this task force, at least insofar as it relates to the financing option.”
Added the source: “[Chargers’ special counsel] Fabiani went ape shit when he saw the first draft.”
Motor Voter Isn’t Driving Voters to the Polls, Says ACLU
KQED reports the American Civil Liberties Union is threatening to sue over the poor performance of California’s Division of Motor Vehicles in allowing people to register to vote.
It’s been more than two decades since Congress passed the so-called Motor Voter Act requiring state DMVs to let residents register to vote at their offices — but the ACLU of California says the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles is falling asleep at the wheel, and it’s threatening to sue.
The civil rights organization is filing a complaint Thursday with Secretary of State Alex Padilla on behalf of three Californians as well as four organizations: the League of Women Voters of California, the National Council of La Raza, California Common Cause and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment.
The complaint, a precursor to a lawsuit, alleges the DMV makes it unnecessarily difficult to register to vote, and that even when people do bother to file a voter registration application with the state agency, they don’t always end up on the voter rolls.
Mobilizing for the March for Real Climate Leadership
The local chapter of 350.org is organizing buses for a Saturday March in Oakland calling upon Gov. Jerry Brown to take decisive action to rein in the oil and gas industry and put an end to water-intensive practices like fracking in California.
We will ask that Governor Brown to put an end to fracking and other forms of extreme extraction in order to solidify his legacy as a climate leader. Furthermore, we are specifically asking him to place a moratorium on fracking and extreme extraction until California’s drought is over. We don’t have a drop to waste!
Join people from all corners of California this February in telling Governor Brown that if he won’t be a real climate leader, that if he won’t stand up to the fossil fuel industry, then we will. Because this is about our water, our health, and our California.
Tickets for transportation to the Oakland rally are already sold out.
On This Day: 1917 – The Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1917 (Asiatic Barred Zone Act) with an overwhelming majority. The action overrode an earlier veto by President Woodrow Wilson. 1952 – In New York City four signs were installed at 44th Street and Broadway in Times Square that told pedestrians “don’t walk.” 2003 – In what turned out to be a bad business decision, Circuit City fired 3,900 experienced sales people because they were making too much in commissions. Sales plummeted. Six years later it went belly up.
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