LOS ANGELES (CN) — Vaccine opponents have sued California, challenging a law that removes the "personal beliefs" exemption for public school attendance.
Tamara Buck and seven other parents sued the state in Superior Court on April 22, claiming Senate Bill 277 violates their religious freedom and endangers their children's health.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law in June 2015, after a measles outbreak that began at Disneyland infected 147 people, 131 of them in California. The law takes effect July 1.
It requires parents to immunize their children against 10 diseases, including measles and whooping cough, to enroll them in public school, unless they have a medical exemption from a doctor.
The parents call the law "tyrannical."
"Plaintiffs oppose this tyrannical bill because it wrongfully places the interests of the national vaccine market above the interests of California children," the complaint states.
"The state hopes to reach a goal of 'total immunization,' (is such a goal possible?), by injecting into children's bodies whichever chemicals or ingredients the state, in its sole discretion, and ineffable wisdom, deems necessary and appropriate," it adds. (Parentheses in complaint.)
Vaccine opponents have claimed that vaccination is responsible for a slew of childhood diseases, including autism.
Scientists say there is little to no evidence of this, and that the benefits outweigh whatever putative harms there may be.
"Scientists in the United States and other countries have carefully studied the MMR [measles, mumps and rubella] shot. None has found a link between autism and the MMR shot," the Centers for Disease Control says on its measles website.
The plaintiffs disagree.
"If SB 277 takes effect, California will be left with a decidedly 'segregated' school system — vaxxed and unvaxxed — where many children will suffer invidious discrimination based on 'medical status' (a protected class under California law). Under a Brown vs. Board of Education analysis, such a bifurcated school system — vaxxed and unvaxxed — reeks of 'separate but equal,' and thus, cannot be allowed to stand. Under California law, segregation based on 'medical status' is every bit as odious as segregation based on 'race,' 'creed,' or 'color," the complaint states.
They also say the bill violates their religious freedom, forcing them to make the untenable choice between their constitutional rights and their children's right to attend public school.
They claim that mandatory vaccination is unenforceable because SB 277 does not contain the words "vaccine" or "vaccination," only "immunization."
Since immunization means being shielded against a disease and vaccination is a onetime medical procedure, the bill cannot require them to vaccinate their children, the parents say.
They claim that the measles vaccine has killed one child a month for the past 10 years, though no one in the United States died from the disease during that time.
The Centers for Disease Control disagrees. Two people died from measles in the United States in 2009, and another two in 2010, according to the CDC. CDC websites do not report any deaths from measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccines.
The CDC has reported numerous outbreaks of measles in recent years, most often from communities with large numbers of unvaccinated children, or sparked by international travelers, often from the Philippines. In 2014, for example, 383 of the 667 U.S. measles cases occurred in unvaccinated Amish communities in Ohio.
Medical researchers attributed the Disneyland outbreak to the high number of unvaccinated children in Southern California.
Vaccination has reduced U.S. measles infections by 99 percent, the CDC says, though about 20 million people worldwide get the disease every year, and 146,000 die from it — about 400 deaths a day, or 17 every hour.
The plaintiffs complain that the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act grants vaccine makers almost total immunity from liability because Congress deemed vaccines "unavoidably unsafe" rather than remove them products from the market.
They say that neither science nor vaccine makers can explain or predict who, why, or when vaccines may harm a child, cost-benefit analysis implies that risk of death from vaccines far outweighs any good they may do.
The governor's office did not immediately return an emailed request for comment Tuesday.
The parents ask SB 277 to be declared unconstitutional and an injunction preventing the state from enforcing it.
They are represented by T. Matthew Phillips of Las Vegas, who did not immediately return an emailed request for comment.
Many of the plaintiffs identify themselves as Christian or holistic/natural food enthusiasts.
According to a 2015 study by Y. Tony Yang with the George Mason University's Department of Health Administration and Policy, wealthy white people are more likely to oppose vaccination than people from other demographics.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.