Clinic for Parents Who Decline to Vaccinate Children
(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) - Pediatric infectious disease experts at UC Davis will establish a new clinic where parents who decline to vaccinate their children because of their personal beliefs can receive immunization information, in response to a new state law requiring a signature from a health-care professional before such children enter school.
Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis, said the law -- and the new clinic -- will give parents a chance to discuss their concerns about vaccinations with a health-care professional.
All children in California must be immunized before starting school, unless they have a health condition that prohibits vaccination. Parents also may decline vaccination because of their personal beliefs. A new state law requires that such parents submit a California Department of Public Health form signed by a health-care provider attesting to their decision, starting in January 2014.
The legislation, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 30, requires parents who decide not to vaccinate their children to obtain a signature from a medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, physician's assistant, nurse practitioner, naturopath or school nurse before enrolling their child in school. The legislation was sponsored by UC Davis pediatrician and California Assemblymember Richard Pan (D-Sacramento).
Blumberg said parents who do not vaccinate because of their personal beliefs fall into three broad categories: those who have researched vaccinations (often using alternative sources) and are firm in their conviction not to vaccinate; parents who are unsure if they should vaccinate and have general or specific concerns and need more information; and parents who are not vaccinating out of convenience.
Blumberg said that the vast majority of peer-reviewed scientific research does not support assertions that vaccinations cause serious conditions such as autism. Research has shown that vaccines are safe and that the health consequences of not vaccinating a child far outweigh the risks, he said. Children who are not immunized are at a much greater risk of contracting serious communicable diseases and of spreading them in their communities.
The public health department is expected to develop materials to educate health-care providers and parents about the new requirement for personal belief exemptions, Blumberg said. Despite significant media coverage of the new requirement, some health-care providers may balk at providing a signature, erroneously believing that signing the form implies they agree with the parents' decision.
"Parents are free to make the choices they think are best for their children, and providers who sign the form are only indicating that they have discussed the issue with the parents, not that they support their decision," Blumberg said.
While the requirement doesn't go into effect until 2014, Blumberg said the clinic may be established earlier, prior to the start of the 2013 school year.
UC Davis Children's Hospital is the Sacramento region's only nationally ranked, comprehensive hospital for children, serving infants, children, adolescents and young adults with primary, subspecialty and critical care. It includes the Central Valley's only pediatric emergency department and Level I pediatric trauma center, which offers the highest level of care for critically ill children. The 129-bed children's hospital includes the state-of-the-art 49-bed neonatal and 24-bed pediatric intensive care and pediatric cardiac intensive care units. With more than 120 physicians in 33 subspecialties, UC Davis Children's Hospital has more than 74,000 clinic and hospital visits and 13,000 emergency department visits each year. For more information, visit children.ucdavis.edu.