Every new year brings a set of new laws in the state of California. And there are a couple that are expected to have a large impact.
The biggest one is the mandatory requirement that children are fully vaccinated before enrolling in school for the 2016-17 academic year. Included are licensed daycare facilities, in-home daycare, public or private preschools and even after school care programs.
The law, which takes effect on July 1, is considered to be one of the strictest vaccination laws in the US. California is now the largest state by far to bar exemptions from vaccines for any reason other than medical necessity. Only two other states, Mississippi and West Virginia, have such rules.
School districts will be “vetting” students starting in July to insure compliance.
Dr. Richard Seidman, pediatrician and chief medical officer for the Northeast Valley Health Corporation, which oversees 14 health centers in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys, said the law “prioritizes the public’s health” over the rights of individuals opposed to immunization.
“I think this is a great thing,” Seidman said. “It puts into public policy recommended immunization practices based on the best possible evidence, which is science.”
Opponents of the new law included California Coalition For Vaccine Choice. On it’s website, the list a multitude of reasons not to force immunization, including claims that vaccines manufacturers and the doctors who administer vaccines “are completely shielded from liability for vaccine injuries and deaths.”
The new law eliminates the exemption from existing specified immunization requirements based upon personal beliefs, but would allow exemption from future immunization requirements deemed appropriate by the State Department of Public Health for medical reasons.
Under the new law, only allow children with serious health problems can disregard the school-mandated vaccinations. Those school-age children who remain unvaccinated will have to be home-schooled.
“One of the biggest impacts of the new law is not allowing personal beliefs” to be an exception, Seidman said. “It’s [people’s] opinion their rights are being violated. That is a personal belief. I support the public health law perspective that prioritizes the health of the public over the rights of the individual.”
Seidman pointed out that there were plenty of parents who have already complied with recommended or mandatory immunizations throughout the San Fernando Valley, and did not expect “a large rush” to facilities to get shots.
“People in most communities already immunize their children,” he said. “Most people are supportive to comply. That’s baseline. What is important to note: there are geographical pockets where the percent of families that have exercised belief exception are becoming as much as 30 percent of a community.
“This is not new. The law is new, but in San Fernando we have a relatively high compliance rate with immunization. Other communities with [that don’t] must get children immunized for public or private school, or otherwise the children must be home-schooled.”
Starting July 1, students must now be vaccinated for all of, but not exclusively, the following viruses or illnesses:
(2) Hepatitis B.
(3) Haemophilus influenzae type b.
(6) Pertussis (whooping cough).
(10) Varicella (chickenpox).
(11) Any other disease deemed appropriate by the state health department, taking into consideration the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians.
For many people who choose not to immunize children, Seidman said, they may not be aware of significant health risks that vaccines now routinely prevent.
“Polio, in my father’s generation, was a terrible disease that has now been eradicated because of routine immunization practice,” he said.
Another new state law, taking effect on Friday, Jan. 1, makes it illegal to have earbuds or headsets in, or resting on, both ears while driving a vehicle or riding a bicycle. The law will not apply to those operating authorized emergency vehicles, construction equipment and refuse/waste equipment.
San Fernando Police Chief Tony Vairo said the earbuds/headphones law has his support.
“You can’t have earplugs in both ears, so you can better hear emergency sirens, or police cars coming,” Vairo said. “It’s good that citizens cannot block both ears, because it can cause other problems and accidents. It can be hard enough to hear with your windows rolled up, listen hearing music. You add the plugs and you can’t ear anything at all.”
Vario said that enforcing the law requires that police visually see the violation. “What we do here, if we see a violation, is give some warnings for the first few weeks. After that we will enforce with citations. I don’t know what fines are yet, but I’m sure it will be a good amount for the law to be a deterrent.”
He said bicycle riders are included in the law “to make it safe and fair for everybody.”
Other new laws taking effect on Jan. 1 include the following:
children under two years of age must ride rear-facing in an appropriate child passenger safety seat. Children weighing 40 or more pounds or standing 40 or more inches tall would be exempt. California law continues to require that all children under the age of eight be properly restrained in an appropriate child safety seat in the back seat of the vehicle;
Concealed carry of weapons on K-12 and college campuses is now banned;
High school seniors will receive their diploma whether or not they pass or even take an exit exam; the law also applies retroactively to students who have graduated since 2004;
stores must keep employees for at least 90 days so they cannot be fired as a result of buyouts or mergers and
Businesses cannot discriminate against people based on their immigration status. This bill would extend the protections of the Unruh Civil Rights Act to persons regardless of citizenship, primary language, or immigration status.