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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Vaccine Politics in California

A California senator who co-wrote a bill to prevent parents from opting out of school-required vaccines said one of his Capitol office workers received a death threat Friday.
Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, said that a caller directed the death threat at a legislative staffer and that the incident was reported to the state Senate’s sergeant-at-arms.
The co-author of the bill, Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, has been provided extra security in recent weeks after his office began receiving threatening phone calls, e-mails and social media comments from opponents of the vaccine legislation.
One Facebook post portrayed Pan as a Nazi and said he should be hanged by a noose. The messages were forwarded to Senate sergeants.
“It’s crazy how vitriolic the conversation can get,” Allen said Friday. “It’s hard on our staff. I don’t like putting my staff through this. We are trying to do what’s right.”
Tracy Seipel writes at The San Jose Mercury News:
California's Constitution spells out the right to a free public education, and lawmakers have fortified that guarantee over the years by safeguarding students against discrimination and inequality in the classroom.

But now a debate over that protected access to an education has surfaced in the most contentious legislative battle in Sacramento this year: Does one student's right to an education trump another student's right to stay healthy?

That question looms over Senate Bill 277, a controversial proposal that would tighten the requirements that all children be vaccinated to attend a California school.
A vocal group of parents fighting the bill insists the vaccination mandate would deprive their kids of their constitutional right to an education, and that argument has suddenly become a threat to the legislation. But legal experts -- including a lawyer who participated in a landmark education rights case -- say both state and federal law allow government to protect the health of the community, first and foremost.

"Schools have to be safe, and the state has the power to regulate the schools for safety," said Dorit Reiss, a professor and vaccine law expert at UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.