State Assembly Passes Historic Measure to Protect Every Student's Right to be Safe at School

Senate Bill 277 by Senators Pan and Allen will End California’s Vaccine Exemption Loophole

Thursday, June 25, 2015

SACRAMENTO – Senate Bill 277, authored by Dr. Richard Pan, a pediatrician and Senator representing Sacramento and Senator Ben Allen (D – Santa Monica), was passed by the California State Assembly today on a vote of 46 to 31.

“Thanks to the hard work of Vaccinate California and our overwhelming coalition of supporters, we are one step closer to protecting our families from these deadly diseases. As a pediatrician, I have personally witnessed children suffering life-long injury and death from vaccine-preventable infection,” said Dr. Richard Pan.  “The personal belief exemption is now endangering the public and SB 277 will restore vaccination rates and protect all children in school.”

“I want to thank all of my colleagues in the Assembly for their thoughtful deliberation of this legislation and their ultimate decision that the health of our community will be increased with the passage of this law,” said Senator Allen, a former president of the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District.

“As a mother, I understand that the decisions we make about our children's healthcare are deeply personal and I respect the fundamental right to make medical decisions as a family,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego). “However, none of us has the right to endanger others. SB 277 strikes the right balance of ensuring informed, thoughtful medical decisions between a family and their doctor and the rights of all our school children to attend school without fear of contracting a potentially fatal, vaccine-preventable disease.”

Currently, a parent may choose to opt out of school vaccine requirements. 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 is administered by local education agencies.

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, vaccination rates will increase to levels that protect children and the community, while implementing SB 277 in a responsible, thoughtful way.

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.  For a complete list: http://sd06.senate.ca.gov/news/2015-04-14-broad-bipartisan-base-support-includes-family-child-advocates-health-care-providers.

When a contagion spreads in a community with immunization rates below 90 percent, the protection provided by ‘'herd immunity’ can be at risk. This means many people are at risk of becoming infected including people who cannot be immunized, including infants, chemotherapy patients and those with HIV or other conditions.

If SB 277 becomes law, California will join thirty-two other states that do not allow parents to opt out of vaccination requirements using a personal belief exemption.

SB 277 now will return to the state Senate for a final vote before going to the Governor.

Listen to additional comments by Senator Allen below:

 

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