February 09, 2015
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy Public Health Vaccination
With the number of California measles cases now at 103 and growing, Sacramento pediatrician and State Senator Richard Pan, M.D., has announced his intention to introduce legislation to repeal personal belief exemptions for school vaccinations.
Cosponsoring the repeal with Dr. Pan is Sen. Ben Allen, D-Redondo Beach. Joining Senators Pan and Allen at the press conference announcing their bill were Senators Hannah Beth Jackson and Lois Wolk and Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez.
The same day, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer urged California to revisit the law allowing personal belief exemptions. In addition, Governor Jerry Brown said last week that he "believes that vaccinations are profoundly important and a major public health benefit, and any bill that reaches his desk will be closely considered."
In 2012, Dr. Pan also authored California Medical Association-sponsored AB 2109, which requires a parent or guardian seeking a personal belief exemption from school immunization to first obtain a document signed by a licensed health care practitioner. Since the bill took effect in 2014, the number of parents in California who filed personal belief exemption forms to exempt their kindergarteners from vaccinations has dropped by 20 percent, with 2.5 percent of kindergarten children opting out this school year, down from 3.1 percent last year. In some communities, however, as many as 10 percent of parents continue to file personal belief exemptions.
“As a pediatrician, I have personally witnessed children suffering life-long injury and death from vaccine-preventable infection,” said Dr. Pan. “While I am pleased that more families are choosing to immunize their children and the statewide rates are going in the right direction, it is important to know that there are pockets of the state where the low vaccination rates continue to put children at risk,” he said in a press release issued two weeks ago.
The bill would still allow exemptions for children who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. It would also require that parents be notified of the vaccination rates at their children's schools.