State strengthens vaccine law

Uzor Awuzie, Student Life Editor

Starting July 1, California will require all children enrolled in state schools, both public and private, to have certain doctor-recommended immunizations before they can be enrolled. The different vaccines vary by age, ranging from polio vaccines to enter child care, to the Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis booster shots to enter the seventh grade.

This new law also means little to no leeway in the time students are allowed to attend school without their vaccinations. Unlike previous laws where students were allowed up to 30 days, students now must have their vaccinations before they can start school.

These new restrictions may have little effect on those who already received their vaccines, but those who previously used personal exemptions will have to decide between maintaining their beliefs or their right to stay in school.

Junior Jacob Towner grew up in a household with strict limitations on immunizations. While he does get the vaccinations required for school, Towner avoids any shot that the state doesn’t require necessary. Like many others, he credits his feelings toward his mother, who is more against vaccinations.

“It’s not really my own belief,” he said. “It’s just how I’ve been like living my life. I would say I’m kind of anti because I’m not really used to it.”

Towner isn’t alone. Many other parents skip out on certain vaccinations or attempt to get exemptions due to fears of it being linked to different diseases and disabilities. The controversy began nearly 20 years ago when former British doctor Andrew Jeremy Wakefield proposed a new syndrome called autistic enterocolitis and raised the possibility of a link between a novel form of bowel disease, autism, and the MMR vaccine. Though he sparked major controversy with his writings, he was soon stripped of his medical licensing after failing to prove his claim. However, he still remains a self-identified “anti-vaccine activist,” and his beliefs resonate with many parents who fight against vaccination laws.

Immunizations are still required under various laws mandated by the state and the district in order to prevent contractible diseases that can be spread through saliva, germs and even human contact.

District nurse Debbie Phalen believes every student should be vaccinated, other than the rare cases where health concerns may conflict with immunizations. Phalen claims vaccines are needed to avoid preventable breakouts in school settings.

“Everything is a communicable disease. We don’t want an epidemic or pandemic, based on immunizations that weren’t administered,” Phalen said. “We’re in such close contact, things can be transmitted so easily, even from pencils, pens, coughing, sneezing.”

Due to the measles breakout in Northern California, where at least 131 people have been infected, according to the California Department of Public Health, schools, including Branham, are pushing harder on immunization requirements to avoid disease breakouts similar to the one in Los Angeles. Not receiving vaccinations not only impacts the individual but also those around them and vulnerability to certain diseases.

Biology and human anatomy teacher Jessica Overby explains how vaccines affect the body in her classes. According to Overby, students without immunization are more vulnerable if they do ever come in contact with those viruses, and that they don’t have the protection of their immune system to fight it off.

“Doing (vaccines), you’re introducing that virus or bacteria into your system to make the antibodies for it so that if you ever do come into contact with it, your immune system already knows how to deal with it, and you won’t get sick,” Overby said.

School health clerk Michele Crescibene fully supports California requiring students to have vaccinations but understands the different circumstances that come with it. Crescibene just hopes for an overall safe environment for people with different immunities.

“Everyone should have their own thing, but for the kids here you have to have immunizations,” Crescibene said. “It’s just the new law.”