Brown Signs Bill Eliminating Personal Belief Vaccine Waivers

July 01, 2015
ChildGettingSHot

By California Healthline

On Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill (SB 277) to end all personal belief exemptions to California's childhood vaccination requirements, the Sacramento Bee's "Capitol Alert" reports (Siders et al., "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 6/30).

For more details on the passage of SB 277, see today's "Capitol Desk" post.

Background on SB 277

SB 277, by state Sens. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) and Ben Allen (D-Redondo Beach), only allows children who have received vaccinations for certain diseases, such as measles and whooping cough, to be admitted to schools in the state. The legislation allows exemptions for medical reasons.

In addition, the measure was amended to:

  • Allow unvaccinated children to enroll in private home-schooling programs that serve multiple families, rather than programs that serve just one family;
  • Permit such children to participate in independent study projects that are overseen by school districts but do not include classroom time;
  • Remove a provision that would have required schools to inform parents of immunization rates; and
  • Allow physicians to consider family histories when determining medical exemptions.

The law also includes a provision that would give unvaccinated children with existing exemptions more time to comply with the rule (California Healthline, 6/30).

Details of Passage

Brown signed SB 277 on Tuesday, noting in a prepared statement that, "The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases."

Brown added, "While it's true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community."

The law will go into effect on July 1, 2016 (Willon/Mason, "PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 6/30).

Reaction

In an interview on Tuesday, Pan said he was pleased that Brown "listened to the science, listened to the facts about vaccination." He added that Brown has "taken a very important step in assuring we stop the erosion of community immunity in California and that we prevent diseases that should stay in the history books" ("KPCC News," KPCC, 6/30).

Opponents of the legislation say it restricts parent choice and violates children's rights to education. They vowed to take action against the law, such as through a ballot initiative or a court challenge.

Christina Hildebrand, founder of A Voice for Choice, said, "We need to wait until someone actually gets thrown out of school until we can challenge it. But we will likely have a referendum on it" ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 6/30).

Our Kids Our Choice promised similar action (Horowitz, Sacramento Bee, 7/1).

However, Pan said, "The courts have been very clear that you don't have a right to spread a communicable disease, that there's a public interest in keeping our communities safe from disease" ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 6/30).

Implications

California now joins Mississippi and West Virginia as the third and largest state to only permit medical exemptions for vaccinations (California Healthline, 6/26).

According to "PolitiCal," the law could affect more than 80,000 students in California who have filed personal belief exemptions in the past ("PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 6/30).

Meanwhile, observers say that health officials could use the passage of the law as an opportunity to study the correlation between such legislation and rates of vaccination and disease. The results of such research could help shape the country's efforts to reduce preventable disease rates, Wired reports (Palmer, Wired, 6/30).

Assembly Approves Day Care Worker Vaccination Bill

In related news, the California Assembly Committee on Health on Tuesday approved a bill (SB 792) that would require day care workers to be vaccinated against measles, pertussis and influenza, the Bee reports (Sacramento Bee, 7/1).

Under the bill, by state Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia), day care workers would have 90 days to comply with the requirements if at first they cannot show proof of vaccination. Employers would then face fines of $25 to $50 per day for not firing employees who fail to comply after 90 days (California Healthline, 5/21).

The bill now heads to the Assembly Committee on Health and Human Services (Mendoza release, 6/30).

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