Headlines from various anti-vax websites are already crying foul. “Grotesquely incompetent Judge won’t suspend mandatory vaccination,” reads one. Why the outrage? Because “states have always upheld exemptions from vaccination on several grounds: medical waiver, religious objection, philosophical objection. THAT’S the tradition,” writes John Rappaport on his blog, who also believes he discovered the secret to the actual Matrix.
Bottom line: “tradition” doesn’t trump the law.
Anti-vaxxers can whine all they want, but it doesn’t change the fact that this Friday, San Diego Judge Dana M. Sabraw rejected the request of a group of plaintiffs to issue a preliminary injunction putting SB277 (the law that removed personal belief exemptions to California’s school vaccination mandate) on hold.
While the plaintiffs will likely appeal, the decision will be hard to overturn.
Judge Sabraw’s ruling ensures that while it’s being litigated, SB277 will remain in force, requiring students K-7 in all public and private schools to provide their immunization records before setting foot on campus. Their inoculations must cover 10 different diseases – which can only be sidestepped if they provide a medical exemption signed by a licensed doctor.
From the San Diego Union Tribune:
On July 1 a coalition of parents and other organizations, including three from San Diego, sued [the state of California], claiming that the law, SB 277, violated their constitutional rights to an equal public education and to their rights of free exercise of religion. There are also two other pending lawsuits against the law, both filed by parents in Los Angeles. The San Diego case is the first to have an injunction hearing and decision.
In the 18-page ruling released this Friday, Judge Sabraw cites more than 100 years of legal precedents that have enforced vaccination to protect the public against infectious disease.
“Even outside the context of vaccination laws, the Supreme Court has reiterated the fundamental rights under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution do not overcome the State’s interest in protecting a child’s health,” Sabraw wrote.
The parents who brought the case claim they are not challenging the state’s right to enforce vaccine mandates but rather its ability to deny personal-belief exemptions.
But Sabraw wasn’t having it.
“The Constitution does not require the provision of a religious exemption to vaccination requirements, much less a personal belief exemption,” Sabraw said.
“Plaintiffs have not shown they have a likelihood of success on their claim that SB 277 violates the right to education under California law.”
But Robert Moxley, one of the attorneys representing the parents, isn’t backing down, saying that the case is about “the right of healthy people to make their own health care choices” – regardless of whose health their “choices” may impact.
“What we are exploring is individual rights versus the power of the state and all of the nuances and legal background is going to have to be applied to vaccines which, obviously, it never has,” Moxley said according to the Tribune. “When most of the precedents being relied on are 100 years old, there is room to litigate this thing.”
Director of the California Immunization Coalition Catherine Martin said that while vaccination advocates respect the personal rights of anti-vaxxers, the safety of the general public comes first.
“It’s clear that, unless parents are required to vaccinate their kids, many of them won’t,” she said to the Tribune.
“It’s not about what people feel about immunization, and it’s not necessarily about individual rights. In this case, it’s about what’s best for the community.”