Spurred by the state Senate's passage this week of a controversial bill that would require vaccinations for more California schoolchildren, dozens of protesters showed up outside the state Democratic Party's convention Saturday to assail the party's leaders in Sacramento.
Toting signs suggesting that Gov. Jerry Brown was destined for hell and depicting a totalitarian state in which Americans are forcibly vaccinated, the demonstrators said they still hope the legislation, SB 277, will not become law.
"I'm not giving up. I will leave this state before I will comply," said Theresa Born, 30, of Westminster.
Born said that her young son was sickened by vaccinations in infancy. As a result, she said, she has avoided giving her other two children all the vaccines required by state law because she worries that they could produce negative reactions.
However, she said, she has not been able to persuade doctors to grant the kind of medical exemption that would apply under the pending legislation.
SB 277 would eliminate a current exemption for parents' personal beliefs. The bill's advocates say the exception puts other children at risk by exposing them to kids who could be carrying disease.
Broad consensus exists in the medical profession that vaccines are safe and effective for the vast majority of children. Vaccination refusal, which has been on the rise following its popularization by some celebrities, has been determined by health officials to have contributed to a measles outbreak earlier this year at Disneyland, next door to the convention center in Anaheim where the Democrats are gathered this weekend.
"Science has proven vaccines to be safe," Dr. Richard Pan, the state senator who co-authored the bill, said in an interview inside the convention center Saturday.
"It's important that we protect all children .... We have to make policy here in this state based on sound science and on the facts, and that's what we're doing," he said.
Some of the protesters outside were not convinced.
"This is the greatest civil-rights issue," said Salinas resident Ana Salaiz, 61, who said both her children suffered from developmental disabilities caused by vaccines. "We've become Nazi Germany."
Her husband, Pete Salaiz, 72, carried a poster depicting cars being stopped by syringe-wielding government officials in dark uniforms.
"Instead of DUI stops, there's going to be mandated vaccination stops," he said.