California homeschooling organizations are seeing a sharp uptick in interest following passage of a law mandating vaccines for any student in public or private school. The law was passed in a rush following the Disneyland measles outbreak earlier this year.
As of 2012, over 3% of children between 5 and 17 were home schooled, up from about 2% in 2003.
The mandate was co-authored by Senator Richard Pan, with backing by the California Medical Association, and was marked by protests at the state capitol in the lead up to its passage. Pan received death threats over the law and it is currently in the process of a referendum aimed at its repeal.
Many parents who would not have normally considered home schooling are now investigating the option in order to avoid the mandate.
Not all are so called ‘anti-vaxxers’, but view some of the 10 specific vaccinations mentioned in the law as not worth the risk. Medical studies claiming to link autism to vaccines have been discredited or retracted, but some still cite the studies as the reason behind their decision.
Doctors state that the decision not to vaccinate has allowed pockets of very low immunity to develop in some communities. Infectious disease expert Dr. Dean A. Blumberg commented on the issue, “The majority of the state does the right thing, but you have these clusters of really low rates, and if there’s a vulnerable population in any way there, you can have serious problems quickly.”
The law does not go into effect until the fall of 2016, but some parents have chosen to begin homeschooling this year.
Teresa Fitzpatrick, president of the California Homeschool Network, stated that the organization has seen an increase in calls related to the new law.
California joins West Virginia and Mississippi, which both have similar vaccine laws. The California law eliminates exemptions for personal belief and religion, but does allow for medical exemptions.