Update, June 30: Legislation ending personal belief exemptions for vaccines is now a done deal. Gov. Jerry Brown has signed SB277 into law, and California now has one of the strictest mandatory vaccination laws in the nation. It also becomes the third state after Mississippi and West Virginia to disallow exemptions for religious reasons.

“The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases,” Brown said in an accompanying signing statement. “While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.”

Passage of the law means that starting July 1, 2016, children will have to be vaccinated in order to attend public or private school. Those who opt out will have to be home-schooled or enroll in an independent study program off school grounds. Parents will still be able to secure a medical exemption from a health care provider, who can take into account family history in excusing kids from particular vaccinations — one of the compromises the bill’s authors made in order to get the bill passed.

The bill also contains language that would allow a certain amount of grandfathering for those who already have personal belief exemptions on file. Unvaccinated kids can stay unvaccinated and still remain in school until the next “grade span,” as long as their exemption is on file before Jan. 1, 2016. However, children with these exemptions will not be able to enter preschool, kindergarten or seventh grade, and will not be able to change schools, without the mandatory vaccinations.

Here are the required immunizations, as listed in the bill:

(1) Diphtheria
(2) Haemophilus influenzae type b
(3) Measles
(4) Mumps
(5) Pertussis (whooping cough)
(6) Poliomyelitis
(7) Rubella
(8) Tetanus
(9) Hepatitis B
(10) Varicella (chickenpox)
(11) Any other disease deemed appropriate by the state Department of Public Health, taking into consideration the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Ongoing Conflict Over Vaccines

A May poll by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 67 percent of Californians and 65 percent of public school parents think children should not be allowed to attend public school without getting vaccinated. Large majorities also said that childhood vaccines are generally safe.

Ninety percent of parents in California vaccinate their children, but there are pockets in the state where the rate of opting out is high. Marin County, for example, has the highest rate of personal belief exemptions in the Bay Area and among the highest in the state. Last school year, 6.45 percent of Marin’s kindergartners went unvaccinated by invoking the exemption.

Those who oppose mandatory vaccinations were vocal indeed as SB277 wended its way through the Legislature, holding multiple rallies at the state Capitol, getting ejected from committee hearings, and even issuing threats to the bill’s backers. The legislation thus became a battleground in the ongoing conflict between those who urge everyone to get vaccinated — a group that includes the scientific and medical community — and those who think the decision should remain personal. Many in that category believe vaccines are responsible for the rising autism rate, a proposition that has never been proved in any way, shape or form but remains an article of faith among some in the anti-vaccine movement.

State Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), a physician, and Sen. Ben Allen (Santa Monica) introduced SB277 amid the measles outbreak that started in Disneyland last December and spread to at least half a dozen additional states. A total of 117 cases were associated with the outbreak, which was declared over on April 17 of this year.

Here is Gov. Brown’s full SB277 signing statement today.

To the Members of the California State Senate:

SB 277 has occasioned widespread interest and controversy — with both proponents and opponents expressing their positions with eloquence and sincerity. After carefully reviewing the materials and arguments that have been presented, I have decided to sign this bill.

The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases. While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.

The Legislature, after considerable debate, specifically amended SB 277, to exempt a child from immunizations whenver the child’s physician concludes that there are “circumstances, including but not limited to, family medical history, for which the physician does not recommend immunization…”

Thus, SB 277, while requiring that school children be vaccinated, explicitly provides an exception when a physician believes that circumstances — in the judgement and sound discretion of the physician — so warrant.

Original post

The state Senate this afternoon passed amendments to SB277, the bill that ends the vaccine personal belief exemption for schoolchildren. The vote was 23-14 on amendments added by the Assembly. The bill now moves to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown.

The amendments included a provision to allow consideration of family history by physicians when they grant medical exemptions, and one to honor existing personal belief exemptions until children either reach kindergarten or seventh grade, whichever comes first.

Brown has not taken a position on the bill, but as noted on KQED’s California Politics Podcast, some Capitol observers think the fact that his cabinet secretary, Dana Williamson, testified in support of SB277 at the Assembly’s Health Committee hearing was an indication he supported it, even though Williamson emphasized she was speaking on her own behalf.

In addition, the governor’s staff has sent out statements that Brown “believes that vaccinations are profoundly important and a major public health benefit, and any bill that reaches his desk will be closely considered.”

But here’s what the San Jose Mercury News wrote on Thursday:

Many pundits are reluctant to predict what Brown will do.
“The three great mysteries in life are the Holy Trinity, transubstantiation and Jerry Brown’s mind,” said Jack Pitney, a Claremont McKenna College political science professor who has studied Brown’s decades-long political career.

The last time he endorsed a vaccine bill in 2012, the former Jesuit seminarian tweaked it to make it easier for Californians to claim religious exemptions. Will he be tempted to do that again — and water down the current legislation?

That 2012 bill was AB2109, which requires parents who want an exemption for their children to submit a signed statement from a health care practitioner who has provided “information regarding the benefits and risks of the immunization and the health risks of specified communicable diseases.”

Brown, however, directed the California Department of Public Health to allow for a religious exemption to the requirement.

UC Hastings law professor Dorit Rubinstein Reiss told the Mercury News that Brown “doesn’t have the authority to make this sort of change on his own. … If someone had taken him to court, that clause could have been ruled unconstitutional.”

Barbara O’Connor, director emeritus of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at Sacramento State, said to the Merc that a religious exemption would prompt the legislative analyst to “say that’s not a minor modification — it changes the totality of the law.”

“If you allow people to get a religious exemption, then everyone who opposes the bill will get one,” she told the Merc.

  • Accountable

    Should Governor Brown sign SB277 into law, then he and the Democratic legislators will be a more oppressive government regime than communist China.

    Last year, China’s measles incidence hit a record low. That was “one year after a large-scale immunization campaign.” Furthermore, “the vaccine was made available free of charge and was not compulsory, and parents were asked to give consent before children were vaccination [sic]. Following reports that schools and creches were making measles vaccination a prerequisite for admission, the government ordered that any such restrictions be lifted in case it jeopardizes the vaccination blitz.” http://www.vaccinestoday.eu/diseases/china-dramatically-cuts-measles-rate/

    California Democratic politicians, however, will followup a successful year of increased vaccination rates by forcing compulsory vaccinations on children in school and daycare. Congratulations, California Democratic legislators, you have shown yourselves to be more corrupt than a country known as one of the worst violators of human rights.

    • microlith

      Should Governor Brown sign SB277 into law, then he and the Democratic legislators will be a more oppressive government regime than communist China, as it pertains to compulsory vaccinations.

      This is hilarious! It’s also over the top and completely false!

      the vaccine was made available free of charge and was not compulsory, and parents were asked to give consent before children were vaccination

      All of which is true in California, still.

      Following reports that schools and creches were making measles vaccination a prerequisite for admission, the government ordered that any such restrictions be lifted in case it jeopardizes the vaccination blitz

      Because they know people are largely ignorant, fearful, and prone to panic. Of course, they were out to mass-vaccinate people – we’re trying to maintain vaccination rates.

      What a disgrace coming from the “party of civil rights”.

      You do not have the “civil right” to place others at risk of infection. You do have the right to refuse, and to not partake in California public schools and other places where children congregate in mass numbers.

      This law is a direct reaction to idiots refusing to vaccinate their children and causing the overall rate to drop noticeably, allowing diseases like measles and pertussis to return and place others at risk. Pointlessly.

      • Accountable

        “Because they know people are largely ignorant, fearful, and prone to panic.” What a horribly condescending comment to make about the Chinese people! They have valid concerns about Chinese vaccine safety. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-international/china-probes-unsafe-vaccines/article731440.ece

        The Chinese government chose to use a carrot rather than a stick to increase vaccination rates and it worked. Here in California, AB2109 worked to increase vaccination rates by 19%. Then the Democratic legislature decided to use a stick as punishment. This was an extremely oppressive decision that will cost them constituents, like myself and many, many others. I am actually for vaccines, just not forced vaccinations, using the threat of withholding education or employment. The Chinese government understands that, while California’s Democratic politicians have become control freaks and need to be recalled http://sb277recalls.com/

        Furthermore, your information about measles and pertussis is just plain wrong…

        MEASLES:

        Please show me cold hard facts of measles recently spreading through a school or daycare. SB277 only focuses on children in school or daycare. It would do absolutely nothing for outbreaks in public places like Disneyland, parks, zoos, grocery stores, etc. You do realize that the majority of the recent measles cases were in adults (55%), and there is no compulsory vaccination for adults.
        http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6414a1.htm

        The U.S. has never been 100% measles free (no cases), so your comment that unvaccinated kids allowed measles “to return” is nonsense. If the supposed “300% increase in PBE’s since 2000” was an issue, you would see a corresponding increase in cases. It never happened. Look for yourself…
        http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/appendices/E/reported-cases.pdf

        PERTUSSIS:

        You are entirely WRONG about unvaccinated children allowing pertussis to return, as the vaccine. The CDC, itself, stated during an interview in 2013 with Popular Science, that unvaccinated kids are NOT the driving force behind the pertussis increase. “Yet because their numbers are small, they’re not enough to explain the overall U.S. rise. “We don’t believe the small numbers of parents who are refusing pertussis vaccines for their children are driving the large numbers of cases we’re seeing across the country,” Alison Patti, a health education specialist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-05/fyi-are-unvaccinated-kids-really-causing-resurgence-whooping-cough.

        According to Dr. Art Reingold, a University of California, Berkeley professor of public health. “The take-home message is that the waning is there…You’re protected initially but it wanes over time…He also said that adding another dose of the vaccine at a later age wouldn’t help much, based on research that was presented to the ACIP group. “[An additional dose] would have very little impact on pertussis,” he said, “in terms of cases prevented.” http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/05/05/404407258/whooping-cough-vaccines-protection-fades-quickly

        • microlith

          What a horribly condescending comment to make about the Chinese people!

          You think I’m referring exclusively to the Chinese? I’m referring to human beings in general.

          The Chinese government chose to use a carrot rather than a stick to increase vaccination rates and it worked.

          They also had to work through far more people with much, much wider variance in education.

          I am actually for vaccines, just not forced vaccinations, using the threat of withholding education or employment.

          Except you’re not, because you’re arguing with poor points and misinformation. Education is not being withheld, the parents must still meet the educational requirements for the child. They simply cannot attend class at larger institutions.

          Please show me cold hard facts of measles recently spreading through a school or daycare.

          Irrelevant. Historical data shows the dangers of Measles, and we have recent data on the dropping rate of vaccines giving it a foothold in the country. Better to snuff it out ASAP rather than stupidly letting the problem progress.

          There is zero harm in this law, except for panicky parents with baseless arguments refusing to take the necessary steps to protect their children, and others, from suffering diseases needlessly.

          • Concerned

            Wow, have you done any research or do you just listen to mainstream media? Do you know about VAERS or NVICP? Did you read the inserts for the vaccines and the adverse events and who should avoid vaccination? They even say it on the CDC’s website. DTAP- “Any child who had a life-threatening allergic reaction after a dose of DTaP should not get another dose. Any child who suffered a brain or nervous system disease within 7 days after a dose of DTaP should not get another dose.Talk with your doctor if your child: had a seizure or collapsed after a dose of DTaP, cried non-stop for 3 hours or more after a dose of DTaP, had a fever over 105°F after a dose of DTaP.”
            Did you just blindly hand your child over to be injected with something you know nothing about? And if you believe in these vaccines so much then why are you worried about children who have been vaccinated? Did you know vaccination causes other strains to become dominant. There are a few strains of Pertusis and the ones causing problems now are not the ones being vaccinated for. Do some research before trying to push your limited views on others!

          • microlith

            have you done any research or do you just listen to mainstream media

            I rely on the scientists who work in that field to do the research, and I read up on the results as they’re reported. I tend to pick my news sources carefully, and avoid fringe sites that make wild, fearful claims about things and/or have a history of posting false information.

            Do you know about VAERS or NVICP?

            Yes, vaccines have their risks and those were made as a result. The risks are considerably lower than those associated with the actual diseases.

            Did you just blindly hand your child over to be injected with something you know nothing about?

            No? Presumably as a parent you, you know, consult your pediatrician who can do tests ahead of time to determine if there is a high risk. Even then, not all risk can be eliminated – that’s life.

            And if you believe in these vaccines so much then why are you worried about children who have been vaccinated?

            I worry about those who cannot be vaccinated, and those for whom the vaccine did not take (and don’t know it.) And I also worry about the kids whose parents left them open to the disease, and what they may suffer as a result.

            Did you know vaccination causes other strains to become dominant.

            Point being?

            Do some research before trying to push your limited views on others!

            Exercise some critical thinking instead of panicking before accusing others.

    • eddie

      Please. Go educate yourself and stop being so ignorant and ill-informed.

      • Accountable

        Well you sure told me, Mr. Rhodes Scholar. LOL 🙂

        • TimmyH

          They can’t argue. They just can’t argue! These morons can only snark and can NEVER debate. The retardation is stupefying. At least have some content. I think this may be known as the Lamest Generation.

        • eddie

          And get someone better to write your comebacks too.

  • Damiana

    Most excellent news.

    • If you’re a Nazi, yep it is.

      • Damiana

        Niki – fuck you asshole.

      • eddie

        You should educate yourself so as to not prove your ignorance.

  • eddie

    Funny to read the lies and hyperbole here. No one is forcing you to do anything. But if you want your children to mingle with others in school then you have to take medically proven precautions to not let YOUR kid infect mine. You’re the selfish ones.

    • Nah, is the pharmaceutical companies that are selfish, greedy, etc.

      • microlith

        Oooh, so now instead of the boogeyman under your bed it’s the pharmaceutical conspiracy, is it?

        • TimmyH

          Ooh, don’t believe that bad people could ever possibly do bad things, do you? Living in fantasyland?

          • microlith

            Fantasyland? No, just not enthralled by baseless and unfounded paranoia.

  • Pingback: California Governor Signs School Vaccination Law | EikAwaz.com()

  • Wow, yet i dunno, it’s ok for your kids to bring the Mollies to school. #smh

    glad the lawsuits will get this Nazi agenda thrown out.

    • microlith

      this Nazi agenda

      Oh look at you, trivializing what the Nazi’s did! How cute.

      • TimmyH

        Well we would like to nip it in the bud this time instead of being caught with our heads in the sand like Germany.

        • microlith

          Except the comparison is completely unhinged and stupid.

          • eddie

            100% agree. At least some people here are not morons and I’ll-informed idiots.

  • John Long

    If a child now dies from a reaction to a vaccine, will their parents be able to sue the state?

    • microlith

      Nope. They will be compensated, there is a fund because we know vaccines can cause reactions, but they cannot sue. It’s a risk we’ve accepted as a society.

      • TimmyH

        Nonsense. Their children will die and they will get screwed.

        • microlith

          Better that we go back to the rates of injury and death prior to the vaccines, right? The stupid path is the best path, agreed?

        • eddie

          Just can’t stop proving the stupidity and ignorance, eh? This is humorous.

  • bugupyourbutt

    How do mine infect yours if yours are vaccinated? This is coming from a parent who has vaccinated her children for everything EXCEPT the flu. Like me, my kids have never had a flu shot. All I’ve seen flu shots do to people is infect them. Now the state is forcing them to get an annual flu shot that I don’t agree with. I don’t like the “all or nothing” language of this law and the State’s option to add a vaccination for “whatever disease they deem appropriate.” There are certainly beastly diseases like small pox (eradicated) and polio that children should be vaccinated for, but having survived, just like every other kid in my school, measles, mumps and chicken pox, I think there are some vaccinations that should be at the option of the parents.

    • Damiana

      There’s no annual flu shot included with this bill. Are you being told that there is?

      You know, you don’t have to get the live virus vaccine. One of the years I did I got sick and don’t know if it’s was the vaccine or not. All other years I’ve gotten the injection instead without a problem, ditto my family.

      • eddie

        Yup, more stupidity and I’ll-informed nonsense.

    • eddie

      EDUCATE yourself! Geez! Just because someone is vaccinated does not mean they are 100% protected, and babies are often completely unprotected because some vaccinations are delayed until a certain age, or require a series to become most effective. Sheesh. The stupidity and lack of knowledge but with strong opinions is like a foot a horse manure in here. But go ahead, keep up the ignorantll-informed posts. Just shows how moronic the anti-vaxxers are…

    • microlith

      How do mine infect yours if yours are vaccinated?

      1) Vaccines are not 100% in everyone. For some people it simply will not take, and we won’t know until they are infected.
      2) Some cannot be vaccinated for a variety of reasons including age, allergy, or other illness.

      All I’ve seen flu shots do to people is infect them.

      You think that. But the reality is that they either caught something else or the vaccine didn’t take.

      but having survived, just like every other kid in my school, measles,
      mumps and chicken pox, I think there are some vaccinations that should
      be at the option of the parents.

      And they have the option. They don’t get to put others at risk, however, so the no option puts the safety of others.

      We’ll ignore the fact that a great many people that didn’t go to your school did not survive measles or mumps, let alone the complications of chicken pox later in life.

  • Sandy99

    You know what? Selfish granola parents and religious nut parents and extreme libertarian parents can quit riding on the herd immunity coattails of responsible parents. EFU, guys. Live in a cave.

    • Shanda Sumpter

      Sorry but I am far from Granola.. Saying that I understand were you are coming from.. However, I have given my child some vaccinations but I don’t believe in all of them.. Taking the choice away just isn’t right. Wait until your choice is taken away from something you believe in. It really doesn’t feel very American. Plus its your child.. you really want someone telling you how to raise them, feed them, shots you give them? I don’t

      • eddie

        No choice was taken away at all. You can still choose not not have your child vaccinated. If so you just have to keep him away from mine in school, which is 100% fair.

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  • TimmyH

    My theory is, since there are so many control-freak know-better psychos out there who can’t tell their asses from their elbows, I don’t think I have should have to have my kid take ANY SHOT to satisfy you, EVER, nor do you have any right to bar my kid from a public school just because you live in terror. How about you learn to stop being whining bitches? I do not vaccinate my kids because MERCK and ELI LILLY are nasty companies. No different than I don’t eat at MCDONALD’S because they make nasty food. GET IT?

    • eddie

      And you don’t! Just go school your kid away from mine. See ya!

Author

Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks is the host and editor of KQED’s health and technology blog, Future of You. He is the former editor of KQED’s daily news blog, News Fix. A veteran blogger, he previously worked for Yahoo! in various news writing and editing roles. He was also the editor of EconomyBeat.org, which documented user-generated content about the financial crisis and recession. Jon is also a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S. He has written about film for his own blog and studied film at Boston University. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College.

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