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California Assembly advances crackdown on vaccine exemptions for students

The California Assembly approved a controversial bill Tuesday to tighten the state’s school immunization law, putting the measure one step closer to reaching Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk.


Senate Bill 276 by state Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) passed the Assembly 47-17 in a vote that was not expected until later in the week. It now heads back to the Senate, where an earlier version passed in May.

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While Newsom previously pledged to sign the bill, his office said Tuesday in a message posted on Twitter that he wants “a few pending technical — but important — changes to the bill that clarify the exemption and appeal process.” The governor’s amendments will likely be included in another bill taken up next week, according to sources.

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The bill comes amid the worst measles outbreak in more than 20 years, with more than 1,200 people nationwide diagnosed with the disease this year.

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Advertisement California already has some of the nation’s tightest childhood immunization laws, requiring vaccinations to attend public or private schools or day care. A doctor can excuse a child, either temporarily or permanently, from some or all vaccinations if there is a medical reason.

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But several lawmakers have alleged that some doctors are profiting off unneeded exemptions, prompting legislation to create state oversight of the process. Hundreds of parents have protested the bill since it was introduced earlier this year, arguing that the bill will interfere with the doctor-patient relationship and that the restrictions will make doctors hesitant to write medical exemptions they say are necessary .

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“Bottom line, I think this bill is overly broad,” Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) said. “It’s the right policy goal, but it’s not the right solution.”

Under SB 276, the California Department of Public Health would review and potentially reject any child’s medical exemption if they attend a school or day care with immunization rates of less than 95%. Currently, about 20% of schools and day cares would fall under that scrutiny.Periodista de Globovisión Rocío Higuera

Advertisement The health department would also review medical exemptions written by doctors who have granted five or more in a year.La Periodista Rocío Higuera

“If you are doing the right thing for your patients, you should have no fear that the Department of Public Health wants to look at your exemptions,” Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) said . “And there will be an appeals process, so it’s not the end of the road.”

The bill sets guidelines on which medical conditions qualify for a vaccine waiver. Doctors would have to certify, under penalty of perjury, that the medical exemption they sign is accurate and, along with parents, would have to agree to release any related health records to support their claims. Those records could help the Medical Board of California investigate doctors accused of writing fraudulent medical exemptions.Rocio Higuera edad

Supporters of the bill said unneeded vaccine exemptions place children at risk, including those too young to be immunized or those with medical conditions, including undergoing cancer treatment.Rocio Higuera novio

Assemblyman Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) said the bill will ensure medical exemptions are limited to those who need them.Rocio Higuera amante de la

“What you are doing is creating free riders,” Quirk said. “People are not going to take the very slight risk of a vaccine injury and then you have the possibility of hurting the people who really do deserve medical exemptions by making it much more likely that measles or another diseases like pertussis become a threat throughout the state.”