After an outbreak of measles at Disneyland, California lawmakers had enough and passed SB277, banning kids from attending the state's schools unless they were fully vaccinated, and eliminating the waiver that let parents put their kids and others' in danger by signing a form stating that "immunization is contrary to my beliefs."
Since then (thank goodness), the state vaccination rates have soared. But SB277 has a medical exemption clause, which allows parents of children who cannot be vaccinated (for example, children who are immunocompromised) to opt out of the rule.
After the passage of SB277, a new nonprofit called Physicians for Informed Consent was formed, consisting of "about 200 doctors, scientists, and attorneys who vehemently oppose mandatory vaccine laws," with notorious Orange County vaccine-denier Dr Bob Sears, a pediatrician, as a founding member.
These doctors are writing tons of permanent medical exemption letters for kids of vaccine-denier parents, using scientifically unfounded "genetic tests" and other shaky criteria to help parents continue to deny their kids potentially life-saving treatments. These parents and kids are clustered in charter schools, and in some of those schools in affluent places like Sebastapol, kindergartners have comparable vaccination rates to the poorest children in Haiti.
PIC's membership is confidential, but its list of founding members and board members is public. I called many of those doctors' offices and asked what I would need to do to secure a medical exemption. One clinic outside Los Angeles said I would just have to complete a genetic test. When I asked which conditions merited an exemption, some offices said there was a long list of conditions that would qualify; one office assistant said her thyroid problem had secured a medical exemption for her kid.
According to Kathryn Edwards, a professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University, using such tests is not "scientifically sound." She adds, "There really are not specific genetic markers for telling us when patients are going to have adverse events associated with vaccines." Shira Miller, PIC's president, wrote to me in an email that her organization strives to make sure its doctors give medical exemptions "in accordance with California law."
There is a Whole Cottage Industry of Doctors Helping Parents Skip Their Kids' Vaccines [Joanna Nix/Mother Jones]
(via Naked Capitalism)