There’s no longer an excuse to deprive a child of vaccinations in California. The Golden State on Tuesday removed its philosophical vaccination exception.
In 18 other states, parents can choose not to vaccinate their children who attend public school. Most states allow for religious or medical exemptions.
More than 720,000 American children are alive today because they were vaccinated over the past 20 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases," said California Governor Jerry Brown, in a statement.
The California law follows a Disneyland measles outbreak, the worst outbreak since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000. Most of the infected were unvaccinated. They can then spread the disease to those who who are too young or immunocompromised to be protected.
On Thursday, a woman died from measures in the first American measles death since 2003.
Nationally, 95 percent of children get their vaccinations by kindergarten. But in states such as Colorado, vaccination rates are as low as 80 percent.
“We’re fortunate to have many vaccines now to help prevent illnesses that can spread at school. But we only get the benefit of those vaccines if we immunize our children in a timely fashion,” said Matthew Davis, a professor and pediatrician at University of Michigan Health System. “School is a common place where kids can pass germs from one to another.”
Later in life, parents should ensure their children are vaccinated for meningitis and the flu, which targets college-age kids, Davis said.
But for many, the vaccine argument isn’t settled — even if the science is.
“California Gov says yes to poisoning more children with mercury and aluminum in mandatory vaccines,” said actor Jim Carrey, in a series of tweets. “This corporate fascist must be stopped.”
Groups such as Autism Speaks have embraced scientific evidence that vaccines do not cause autism. Others, including the Autism Society, maintain the jury is still out.
“The interaction of these vaccines with other potentially contributory environmental factors and vulnerabilities also needs serious investigation,” the Autism Society says on its website.
There is no link between vaccinations and autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Institute of Medicine and other medical groups.
Carrey described himself “anti-neurotoxin” but not anti-vaccination. He called for the elimination of thimerosal, a preservative that was removed from childhood vaccinations nearly 15 years ago.
They say mercury in fish is dangerous but forcing all of our children to be injected with mercury in thimerosol is no risk. Make sense?
— Jim Carrey (@JimCarrey) July 1, 2015
Thimerosal drew criticism because it contains a form of mercury. However, autism rates in the U.S. continued to climb even after thimerosal was removed from childhood vaccines. Instead, genetics are believed to play a role.
In 2000, about 1 in 150 children was diagnosed with autism in the United States, according to the CDC. Today, it’s 1 in 68. Thimerosal was removed from childhood vaccines in 2001.
Thimerosal is still used in flu vaccines that are packaged in multi-use vials because it prevents contamination from multiple needle sticks. Single-use flu injections are available and contain no thimerosal.
Gavin Stern is a national digital producer for the Scripps National Desk.