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SB 276 would permit CDPH intercession

Sen. Richard Pan's Senate Bill 276 would further restrict vaccine exemptions for school children.  Courtesy California State Legislature SB 276 would give California Department of Public Health charge in approving, denying school vaccination exemptions By JAIVON GRANT State

Sen. Richard Pan’s Senate Bill 276 would further restrict vaccine exemptions for school children.  Courtesy California State Legislature

SB 276 would give California Department of Public Health charge in approving, denying school vaccination exemptions

By JAIVON GRANT

State government doesn’t have a good track record for running things well – just ask any Californian who’s recently visited the Department of Motor Vehicles and had to endure excruciating wait times to complete the simplest administrative task.

Yet, lawmakers want to give the government more responsibilities. SB 276 authored by Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, would put the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) in charge of approving or denying school vaccination exemptions based on medical necessity.

It’s true that mandatory vaccination is always a controversial topic – you’ll find ardent supporters and opponents on both sides of the issue. However, cooler heads should prevail.

In the past, the personal belief exemption helped many parents avoid compliance with the state’s vaccination laws. When a new state law went into effect repealing the personal belief exemption, many parents opted to pursue medical exemptions instead. Data from CDPH shows the number of medical exemptions tripled after the personal belief exemption was repealed, rising from .02 percent to .07 percent.

The CDPH blames the increase in medical exemptions on doctors willing to provide them with little or no evidence of medical need. In order to limit “exemptions for sale,” a few organizations banded together to sponsor SB 276, which would create a government form for medical exemptions, and a state database to track those exemptions.

The bill also would require CDPH to develop a process the state public health officer can use to approve or deny medical exemptions on a “timely basis.” How CDPH, with or without the help of local public health agencies, can meet a timely deadline is a legitimate and pressing question. And, that isn’t the only question that remains.

Will the CDPH see a staff increase? How large will it be? Will the state require staff to have medical licenses that give them the authority to overturn a physician’s recommendation?

What’s more, these evaluations will not only be an assessment of the medical reasons for the exemption, but the process will also determine if a physician has violated professional medical or ethical standards in issuing an exemption. This heavy-handed regulation could discourage doctors from granting legitimate vaccination exemptions for medical reasons.

A better process would be to direct CDPH to send the state medical board information about doctors who issue a higher than expected number of exemptions. The state medical board could then determine if the exemptions are valid based on accepted medical standards and if the issuing doctor is engaged in unethical behavior or malpractice.

There may be good intentions behind SB 276, but the last thing the state needs is another agency with duplicative oversight and a labyrinthine review process that rivals the DMV. Incompetence can and must be avoided.

After all, what could possibly go wrong when you have government workers making medical decisions and second-guessing trained physicians?

Jaivon Grant is a political commentator and former writer for Our Weekly Los Angeles.

Compton Herald is a digital news publication providing clear, fair and current news, information and commentary about Compton, the Los Angeles metropolitan area, Los Angeles County, California, and the world.

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