July 01, 2015
Area(s) of Interest: Public Health Vaccination
Ending months of long debates both in and out of the state Capitol, Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed into law a sweeping vaccination bill that eliminates the personal belief exemption from school immunization requirements.
Senate Bill 277, which would require vaccinations of children entering public and private school, passed through multiple legislative committees, the Assembly Floor once and the Senate Floor twice before it was sent to the desk of Gov. Brown.
The bill was there less than 24 hours before the governor gave it his signature.
“The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases,” Gov. Brown wrote in his signing message. “While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.”
A large coalition of the bill’s supporters, which includes physicians, educators, parents and community leaders, met at William Land Elementary School in Sacramento just moments after SB 277 was signed to thank Gov. Brown and the legislators who backed the bill. The bill’s authors, California Medical Association (CMA) member and Senator Richard Pan, M.D., and Senator Ben Allen, were also in attendance.
“Gov. Brown, I want to thank you — all of us want to thank you — for listening to the science and the people of California who want our state and communities to be safe and healthy,” Dr. Pan said.
Dr. Pan, a pediatrician, said he authored the bill because he’s seen “the devastation of vaccine preventable diseases” first-hand.
SB 277 was proposed in the wake of a recent wave of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in California. There have been at least 136 confirmed cases of measles across more than a dozen counties since December. Nearly 20 percent of those cases resulted in hospitalization.
Senator Allen explained how higher immunization rates protect the state from further outbreaks.
“We’re protected by two things,” Senator Allen said. “We’re protected by the fact that we are vaccinated ourselves, but we’re also protected by the fact that the rest of us are vaccinated. This is the whole concept of community immunity. So for those people who can’t get vaccinated, they rely entirely upon the vaccination of everybody else preventing a dangerous communicable disease outbreak.”
Dr. Pan said he was cautiously optimistic that Gov. Brown would sign the bill and that immediately after hearing the news he was “certainly very excited.”
“I was happy that we’re heading back to a safer California and a healthier California,” Dr. Pan said.
The new law, which takes effect July 1, 2016, will make California one of three states in the nation that does not offer a personal belief or religious exemption for required vaccinations. Under the measure, vaccinations will be required of children first entering school, or when they enter seventh grade, unless they have a physician-approved medical exemption. Personal belief exemptions obtained prior to January 1, 2016, however, will remain valid until the exempted child enters kindergarten or seventh grade. Children who home-school or utilize independent study are excepted from the requirements.
CMA Past President Richard Thorp, M.D., thanked Senators Pan and Allen for their work on the highly scrutinized bill and its successful passage into law.
“SB 277 is based in fact and science and will help increase community immunity across the state,” he said in a statement on Tuesday. “This is sound public health and we hope Governor Brown’s swift signature on the bill shows how important it is for California. We applaud his fast action to keep Californians safe.”