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After Senate Approval, Vaccine Bill Awaits Action in Assembly

May 28, 2015

Having cleared the California Senate on May 14 in a 25-10 floor vote, the much-discussed California vaccine law now awaits action in the California Assembly.

Senator Richard Pan (D-Sacramento and Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) made a number of last-minute amendments to their bill (SB 277) during the days leading up to the Senate floor vote, including changes that apparently made the bill more acceptable to a majority of legislators. The full Senate spent only an hour talking about the bill, and the 25-10 vote to approve the bill was not close. However, the bill’s opponents – who staged sometimes noisy demonstrations at the State Capitol – vowed they would continue to try to defeat the bill.

Sen. Pan said “As a pediatrician, I have personally witnessed children suffering life-long injury and death from vaccine-preventable infection. The personal belief exemption is now endangering the public and SB 277 will restore vaccination rates and protect all children in school.”

Sen. Allen said “The alarming increase in unvaccinated students places everyone at risk of contracting potentially fatal diseases. I am grateful to our Senate colleagues for voting for a policy that will keep all of us safe from serious, preventable illnesses.” Sen. Allen is a former school board president of the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District.

A long list of school boards, education groups, local governments, health organizations and parent and child advocacy groups support SB 277. The list includes: the American Academy of Pediatrics, Vaccinate California, California State PTA, California Medical Association, California Immunization Coalition Health Officers Association of California, the Los Angeles Unified School District, Solano Beach School District, the San Francisco Unified School District, the Counties of San Francisco, Los Angeles, Marin, Yolo and Santa Clara.

In a statement, Sen. Pan and Sen. Allen said “Currently, a parent may choose to opt their child out of school vaccine requirements that bi-partisan legislative majorities passed to protect students. SB 277 will remove that option, so that only a medical exemption would remain. SB 277 will not remove a parent’s choice to vaccinate his or her child. However, if a parent makes the choice to not vaccinate, they would have the responsibility to home-school their child, participate in a multi-family private home-school or use public school independent study that exists in current law and is administered by local education agencies.”

They continued, “Under the bill, vaccination checks would take place during the currently mandated reporting periods: when a child enrolls in kindergarten, in seventh grade or when a child enrolls in a new school district. Utilizing current reporting periods in the law, we are able to achieve our goal to increase vaccination rates to levels that protect children and the community, while implementing SB 277 in a responsible, thoughtful way.”

The California Coalition for Vaccine Choice, which opposes the bill, said “SB 277 aims to remove a parent’s right to informed consent. The choice of what, when and how a child is to be vaccinated needs to remain between a family and their doctor. Where there is a risk of injury or death, no matter how small the perceived risk may be, there must be a choice. To mandate a medical procedure with known risks is unethical.”

Sources:  EdBrief staff, Office of Sen. Richard Pan, California Coalition for Vaccine Choice