Three Orange County legislators touted the virtues of vaccinations Thursday, although they stopped short of fully endorsing proposed legislation that would take away a “personal beliefs” exemption for some parents.

Sens. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, and Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, who is also a pediatrician, said Wednesday they intended to introduce a bill eliminating the “personal belief” exemption from immunizing children.

Sen. Patricia Bates, R-San Juan Capistrano, favors vaccinations and has led efforts to get more children vaccinated, but wants to study the proposed legislation further before committing any support, aide Ron Ongtoaboc said.

Bates represents a district which has some of the state’s highest rates of unvaccinated children.

Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Irvine, told City News Service he supports what Allen and Pan are trying to do in general, but wants to see the specific language in the bill before committing to it.

“In general, I think I am supportive of what the legislation is trying to do,” Wagner said. “But I would continue to support religious exemptions.”

Wagner noted that Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christian Scientists are among some of the religions that may object to the immunization shots.

“I’m OK with religious exemptions,” Wagner said. “But the general, philosophical language that’s in (state law) now is way, way too broad, and we’re seeing the result with this measles epidemic.”

Wagner said he favors dropping the “personal beliefs” exemption.

“I strongly encourage parents, unless they have a genuine religious belief,” to have their children immunized, Wagner said. “I vaccinated mine and I think it really makes sense. I really like where Dr. Pan is going with this.”

Assemblywoman Young Kim, R-Fullerton, said she favors vaccinations.

“Vaccinations have proven not only to be safe, but to effectively protect our children from infectious diseases,” Kim said.

“I haven’t seen any legislative proposals yet, but in order to keep all children healthy and safe, we need to seriously consider lifting the personal beliefs exemption.”

The measles epidemic originated in December when Disneyland patrons were exposed.

Former Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach, a candidate in the March 17 special election in the 37th Senate District against Wagner, said he wanted to be “sensitive” to the concerns of parents who fear vaccinations lead to health issues such as autism and would prefer an educational campaign before mandating shots.

Moorlach said he understands the fears of some parents who think there is a link to some vaccines and autism because science has not uncovered a cause for the disorder.

“We need to look at it in a humane way so that we’re not looking like a dictatorship demanding that people do things,” Moorlach said.

“It would be really helpful to clearly demonstrate there’s no correlation between vaccines and autism. I think forcing it is a little premature.”

A total of 99 cases of measles have been reported in California, according to the state Department of Public Health. There have been 17 cases reported in Los Angeles County and 31 in Orange County. Riverside County has five and San Diego County 13. There were seven cases of measles reported in Ventura County.

Nineteen of the 31 Orange County cases have no connection to Disneyland, according to Deanne Thompson of the OC Health Care Agency. Thirteen children have the measles with only one having been immunized and two were too young to get the MMR (measles, mumps rubella) shot, Thompson said.

City News Service

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