May 15, 2015
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy Public Health Vaccination
California Senate Bill 277 (Pan/Allen) was approved with staggering support on the Senate floor Thursday, after becoming the subject of long debates in each of its previous three policy hearings.
The bill, which would require most children to receive immunizations as a condition of entering public school, passed on a 25-10 vote. It now heads to the Assembly.
“SB 277 would protect our children and our communities from the harmful effects of preventable diseases,” said Luther F. Cobb, M.D., president of the California Medical Association (CMA), a sponsor of the bill. “On behalf of CMA’s 40,000 members, I would like to thank Senators Dr. Pan and Allen for their leadership in authoring the bill, as well as members of the Senate who helped move this important bill forward. This is a big step toward improving the public health of schools and communities across the state.”
As in its previous hearings, the bill generated a fair amount of discussion among policymakers before the measure came to a vote. Senator Tony Mendoza was among those in support.
“SB 277 is a bill that will ensure the vaccination rates at schools reach the level they need to be to protect children, including those that cannot be vaccinated for health reasons from vaccine-preventable diseases,” Mendoza said. “We need to consider the greater good versus the few people who choose not to vaccinate their kids, and not for medical reasons.”
The effort to remove the personal belief exemption from the state’s vaccination requirements gathered more support when the California Democratic Party adopted a resolution calling for its elimination.
“We need to keep our children safe in their schools,” said Shannon Udovic-Constant, M.D., a CMA Trustee and San Francisco Medical Society member, at the party’s annual convention. “Our most vulnerable are at risk.”
The issue was a hot topic at the state’s Democratic Convention, tied for first priority among the numerous other resolutions submitted. Copies of the resolution will be sent to Gov. Jerry Brown and the legislature’s Democratic members.
In California, more than 13,500 kindergartners are unvaccinated due to the personal belief exemption. The rising number of unvaccinated children, combined with a recent rash of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, has underscored the need to boost immunization rates in the state.
“As a pediatrician, I have personally witnessed children suffering life-long injury and death from vaccine-preventable infection,” Dr. Pan said in a statement. “The personal belief exemption is now endangering the public and SB 277 will restore vaccination rates and protect all children in school.”
If the bill becomes law, California will join 32 other states that don’t allow a personal belief exemption.
SB 277 supporters include CMA, American Academy of Pediatrics, California; Vaccinate California; California State PTA; California Immunization Coalition; Health Officers Association of California; and several school districts and local governments in the state.