June 24, 2015
Area(s) of Interest: Public Health Vaccination
Sacramento — Senate Bill 277 jumped its final hurdle in the state Assembly today, clearing the house with overwhelming 46-30 approval. The bill now heads back to the Senate, where legislators will consider amendments made in the Assembly.
“The California Medical Association (CMA) would like to thank the Assemblymembers who supported this important piece of legislation that will improve public health and keep our communities safe,” CMA President Luther F. Cobb, M.D., said. “Diseases that were once declared eradicated have resurfaced in recent years and SB 277 will help to ensure that community immunity is high enough to keep Californians safe from preventable illnesses.”
Today’s decision aligns with the opinions of two-thirds of Californians, who believe children should not be allowed to attend public school unless they are vaccinated, according to a recent Public Policy Institute of California poll.
SB 277 would remove the personal belief exemption (PBE) from school vaccination requirements, allowing exemptions only for medical reasons. The SB 277 immunization requirements would apply to students first admitted to school or who enter seventh grade after July 1, 2016. It would also help protect the most vulnerable, including babies too young to be immunized and people who are immunocompromised, by making it more difficult for preventable diseases to spread.
“In a situation where one or two percent of overall immunity makes a difference in our overall public health, do we wait until we have a full-fledged crisis to protect our most vulnerable?” Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) said. “Overwhelmingly, doctors will tell us that vaccines are one of the greatest health achievements in all of mankind. Scientists and researchers will tell us that vaccines are incredibly safe and effective. It’s time that we take this very balanced and thoughtful step to increase vaccine rates in our schools, our communities and our state.”
The bill has received widespread support from health and education organizations across the state, including CMA; the American Academy of Pediatrics, California; California State PTA; California Immunization Coalition; and the California Children’s Hospital Association. Additionally, several other community groups, local governments and newspapers have also endorsed the bill.
In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that measles had been eradicated in the United States. However, since December 2014, California has had at least 136 confirmed cases of measles across more than a dozen counties. Nearly 20 percent of those cases have required hospitalization. Efforts to contain the outbreak resulted in mandatory quarantines and the redirection of public health resources to investigations into exposure.