"People don't realize vaccination is about other people. It's not about your kid," Caplan, a professor at New York University's Langone Medical Center, said. Children who are not vaccinated pose a bigger danger to people who are immune compromised and have conditions, such as AIDS, or have just undergone chemotherapy, than themselves, Caplan said.
In these situations, allowing an unvaccinated child near could be considered as severe an issue as violating an Ebola quarantine.
"Yes, you should be able to do what you want," Caplan said, "but only as long as it does not hurt or harm other people."
When it comes to Americans' health, public officials have struggled with deciding when government interventions should override individual choices. In some cases, the decision is clear, that's why there's little junk food in schools, a tax on cigarettes, fluoride in water, and seat belts in vehicles. In other cases, the government spends huge amounts of money each year to coax, bribe and persuade people to do things with their bodies for their own good rather than forcing them -- which would likely be more effective and certainly cheaper.
California's new vaccine law is an exception.
Technically speaking, the bill, which was signed into law by the governor on Tuesday, does not give anyone the power to make people get vaccinated if they don't want to. But the law removes most of the state's exemptions that allowed parents to opt out. So, if they want to send their children to public schools, parents will likely have to comply.