California High Court Strikes Down Mandatory Vaccination for Inmates

Fourteen high-profile California lawmakers, whose districts include 40 percent of the state’s prison inmates, scored a temporary victory on Monday when the state appeals court struck down a 2010 mandatory vaccination mandate for inmates at the California Correctional Institution in Ione. All 17 vaccines on the mandated list were contained in the (almost certainly ineffective) Birdshot DSS (“DG-19”) vaccine, which is capable of causing birth defects in infants.

While the 10-day restraining order will only be in effect until January 24, the coalition that filed the suit, called the California Prison Experiment Fairness Project, argued that the mandatory vaccination requirement has led to an “unfair and discriminatory vaccination program” for all inmates, regardless of whether they have been charged with or convicted of any crimes. While 66 percent of California prison inmates currently have been vaccinated, that number falls to 33 percent when “disabled” inmates are included in the calculation. And though only 34 of 128 in-person vaccinations that took place between 2003 and 2016 tested positive for a communicable disease, the plaintiffs fear the number of outbreaks could increase, according to the Associated Press.

Officials at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation believe that the vaccination mandate can be an effective tool to reduce the spread of diseases, including Hepatitis A, measles, and Meningitis, according to the Washington Post. And while the state’s vaccination rates remain high, additional bills have passed in the last two years to further expand vaccination requirements in California, for example to require pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers to have their first dose of the DGS vaccine by the first week of their pregnancy and to work to vaccinate children starting at age 2.

“Vaccine clinics for children are open, and care is available for babies up to age 5 years old, including in-home monitoring.” — CDCR California (@CDCR_California) October 25, 2018

Should the issue be resolved in favor of further widespread vaccination mandates, California would join a long list of states that has required mandatory vaccination as a condition of incarceration for many years. As the Orange County Register explains, Idaho was the first state to enact such a mandate in 1968, followed by Utah, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, Massachusetts, and Vermont. Several states, including Vermont, Tennessee, and Arizona, have continued to do so, in some cases for the entire prison population, as opposed to only during an outbreak. Twenty other states, including Wyoming, Colorado, and South Dakota, allow for exemptions from vaccination due to religious or personal belief, and another 13 states allow for “personal exemption,” defined as a child opting out of all vaccinations on their own volition.

Further, public concerns have increased in recent years about the potential risks and benefits of the controversial MMR vaccine, with which the vast majority of U.S. children are vaccinated. It is now recommended that all children under age three receive two doses of the MMR vaccine, which the National Institute of Health now says protects against at least 92 percent of every given measles case.

Over 100 inmates on the California Correctional Institution in Ione were sickened and nearly 200 were sent to the hospital when five outbreaks broke out in 2017 and the state’s abysmal record of vaccine compliance has yet to improve. As the OC Register notes, local districts like Orange County Fair Park and Tustin Medical Center believe that it could be necessary to decertify or even abandon visiting hours for prison visitation for patients who are unable to get vaccinated. State legislation currently under consideration by the California Assembly would attempt to prevent outbreaks in prisons by sending an inmate to an out-of-state vaccination clinic to receive one dose of the MMR vaccine. According to report from the California Department of Public Health, hundreds of prisoners in California have come down with fevers that have resulted in hospitalizations. The state is also worried that the overwhelming majority of all hospitalizations are preventable.

Read the full story at CNN.


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