June 25, 2015
A widely supported vaccination bill cleared its second house in the California legislature on Thursday, and passed through the Senate again today. Senate Bill 277, which passed through the Assembly Health Committee on June 9, was approved on the Assembly floor with a 46-30 vote. Today the bill was approved on the Senate floor with a 24-14 vote. The bill’s next stop is the desk of Governor Jerry Brown.
“Overwhelmingly, doctors will tell us that vaccines are one of the greatest health achievements in all of mankind,” Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) said. “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.”
SB 277 would eliminate the personal belief exemption from school vaccination requirements, barring parents from skipping their children’s school-required immunizations unless they have a medical exemption from a physician.
Under the law, vaccinations would be required of children first entering public school, or when they enter seventh grade after July 1, 2016. However, children who home-school or participate in independent study would not have to receive immunizations.
About 20 Assemblymembers spoke during the bill’s hearing to express their position on the measure. Assemblywoman Catharine Baker (R-San Ramon) was one of them.
“We should fight for the liberty not just of those who want not to vaccinate their kids,” Assemblywoman Baker said, “but of those who can’t — those who are most vulnerable in our communities, whether it’s the newborn infants, the immunosuppressed, the elderly, who are all throughout our communities. Every one of us represents them. And this bill to me is the right balance for that population as well as parent choice.”
The measure was proposed following a recent rash of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in the state. 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.
“I am a fierce, fierce supporter of parent choice in this decision, but I also believe with choice comes personal responsibility,” Assemblywoman Baker said. “If you have an effect on other people in your community, you need to take responsibility for that, even if you really rather not and if the consequences are not what you would chose.”
Vaccinations are widely regarded by mainstream scientists and experts as being both safe and effective.
SB 277 is supported by many health and education organizations, including the California Medical Association; American Academy of Pediatrics, California; California State PTA; Vaccinate California; and several local governments and school districts.
Two-thirds of Californians also believe children should not be allowed to attend public schools unless they are vaccinated, according to a recent Public Policy Institute of California poll.