The Santa Monica Democratic Club executive board commends our new state senator, Santa Monica’s favorite son and former SMMUSD Board President Ben Allen for co-authoring legislation with Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), who is a pediatrician, to repeal the personal-belief exemption that currently allows parents to decline on behalf of their children the immunizations schools require as a condition of attendance.

Santa Monica has the unfortunate distinction of having one of the highest rates of vaccination opt-out and is now facing the consequences in the form of an outbreak of measles, which so far has affected a walk-on baseball coach at Santa Monica High School and an infant at the infant/toddler childcare center located on the high school’s campus.

“The high number of unvaccinated students is jeopardizing public health not only in schools but in the broader community,” Allen said. We need to take steps to keep our schools safe and our students healthy.”

In areas where large numbers of vaccination-refusing parents cluster, immunization rates have fallen low enough to jeopardize “herd immunity.” This is the protection provided when enough people are vaccinated to prevent the highly contagious virus from spreading among those who are not immunized. The unimmunized include those who medically cannot be vaccinated, such as infants under 12 months old, as well as individuals with immune systems compromised by certain medical conditions or suppressed by medical treatments such as chemotherapy. Unfortunately, these are the true victims in an outbreak such as this.

This legislation, if passed, will place California with 32 other states that don’t allow parents to opt out of vaccination requirements using a personal-belief exemption. We salute Senator Allen for addressing this urgent matter of public health and urge those in our community who are able to be vaccinated to do so if they are not already.

Dr. Sion Roy is a physician and a member of the SM Democratic Club executive board.

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