California Committee Passes Controversial Vaccine Bill

| by Kathryn Schroeder

A bill that would remove California’s personal belief exemption for childhood vaccinations was passed Tuesday by the state’s Senate Assembly Health Committee in a 12-6 vote.

SB277 passed the committee after five hours of debate and after more than 1,000 people recorded their opposition to the bill at the Capitol.

The bill would remove the California parents' option to not have their children vaccinated with all or some of the immunizations required by day care, elementary, and secondary schools through a personal belief exemption. Only a medical exemption would allow parents to opt their children out of school-mandated vaccinations, the Huffington Post reports. Children who do not have a medical exemption and are not vaccinated will have to be home-schooled.

“Let’s be clear, this does not deny children an education, but it certainly does restrict parent options,” bill co-author Democratic state Sen. Ben Allen said. “There is no question about it. I’m not going to try to mince words.”

Religious objections would no longer be a valid reason for not being vaccinated.

“If we want to stop outbreaks, we need to get our immunization rates higher, not just across the state but also in individual communities as well,” said bill co-author Democratic state Sen. Richard Pan, who is also a pediatrician.

After leaving the hearing room, some opponents to the bill reportedly decried pharmaceutical influence on policymaking and yelled “fascist” at lawmakers in the committee, reports SF Gate.

“My biggest issue is the loss of freedom,” Republican Assemblywoman Marie Waldron said, after voting against the bill. “Informed consent is a human right.”

Only two other states currently have such a strict vaccination requirement, Mississippi and West Virginia.

California experienced a measles outbreak in December 2014, originating at Disneyland, that sparked a vaccination debate, NBC News reported. The outbreak left 147 people sick in the U.S, and spread to Canada and Mexico. Many of the people who fell ill had not been immunized against measles. It was only in May 2015 that the outbreak was declared to be over.

“When the outbreak of measles happened there was a lot of fear in my community,” Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez from California said, who voted in favor of the bill. “A lot of my constituents were asking me and trying to understand why people would choose not to have vaccinations … Personal liberty never includes the right to endanger other people.”

SB277 is now headed to California's full Assembly for a vote and if approved, it will go to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown for consideration. Brown has said he will “strongly consider” the bill should it reach his desk.

Sources: Huffington Post, SF Gate, NBC News

Photo Source: The True News, NIAID/Flickr