To vax or not to vax: You may not have a choice

As of fall, 2016, many children will not be allowed to attend school without up-to-date vaccinations
-A +A

A new California state law requires children to be fully vaccinated by fall, 2016, if starting school or transitioning to a new school. Though the law has been a hot topic of debate in the across the state, Dr. Mark Vaughan of Auburn Medical Group said his patients have been fairly quiet on the subject.

“I haven’t had even one patient mention it since (the law) went through,” Vaughan said. “I don’t know that people are aware of it.”

While Vaughan, who is a vaccine advocate, recommends that all of his patients are up-to-date with their vaccines, he said he is disturbed by the new law.

“Our practice has a policy that if our patients don’t trust our advice (about vaccines), we recommend they look somewhere else,” Vaughan said, “but people should have the freedom to make bad decisions.”

There are plenty of doctors who will see patients who choose not to vaccinate or to delay vaccinations, Vaughan said, but school isn’t a choice.

“What will these parents do if they can’t send their kids to school?” he asked. “Not every parent has the luxury to homeschool. It’s undue coercion.”

Cathy Phillips, co-owner of Pathways Ranch Preschool and Childcare is concerned that more parents will choose to homeschool and create ‘pockets’ of unvaccinated children, though in her 40 years of teaching preschool she’s known only a handful of families that chose not to vaccinate, she said.

“I’m not sure how the state is going to view those (homeschool) groups (in the future),” she said.

Parents at Phillips’ preschool haven’t mentioned any particular concern or confusion over the new law, she said.

“Parents are confused (about vaccines) to begin with,” she said, “whether there’s a new law or not.”

Dr. Heidi Hook at Auburn Naturopath hopes to help out those confused parents, she said. There are three things she wants parents to know: personal belief exemptions will still be accepted by schools until fall of 2016 or until a child transitions to a new school level (middle or high school, for example); parents who choose to vaccinate children should be sure they are healthy on the day of the shot;  parents can ask doctors to administer one dose at a time, rather than a multi-dose that has more preservatives and chemicals.

“The (Center for Disease Control) requires a child to have 48 doses by age 6,” she said. “The first dose is given within 12 hours of birth, and their immune systems are not up and running until they’re two years old.”

Hook, who’s been in practice for 20 years, said people have a misperception that naturopaths are anti-vaccine.

“Naturopaths are there to support people through the vaccination process,” she said. “We are good at helping parents relieve some fear, and increasing the odds that children will have (fewer) side effects.”

Hook recommends magnesium on vaccine day, which prevents the body from absorbing aluminum, she said.

One fearful parent is Auburnite Erica Barker, a homeschooling mother of two.

“This bill takes away the rights of so many people to make an informed . . . decision for their own children,” Barker wrote. “We are not anti-vaccine . . . but we are against being forced to inject our children with multiple vaccines that include unnecessary agents (such as aluminum and formaldehyde).”

Other parents, like Roseville resident, Eileen Speaker, say this law is past due. 

“I have an 8-month-old daughter and knowing she’ll be going to school among other immune-protected peers makes me feel better,” Speaker said. “I know she’ll be protected from diseases that should be eradicated.”

Speaker, who works in Auburn, said she glad lawmakers have seen the truth through a lot of misinformation.

“It makes me proud to be a Californian because a lot of states have not been able to pass such stringent laws,” she said.

No matter which side of the debate they’re on, most locals agree that there will be a scramble for doctor’s visits and information before the school year begins at the end of the summer.

Reach reporter Tricia Caspers-Ross at