Mandatory Vaccination Bill Makes Headway in California
California may soon become the third state to disallow vaccination exemptions based on personal or religious beliefs.
All US states require age-specific vaccinations prior to enrolling in school, but 2 states disallow exemptions based on personal or religious beliefs, and California may soon become the third state to do so.
The state's mandatory vaccination bill, SB-277, has cleared the California Senate Education Committee with a 7-2 win. If the bill moves through the California Senate Judiciary Committee, it will appear before Gov. Jerry Brown, who seems ready to sign it.
California's current law prohibits schools from admitting students who have not been vaccinated against several different diseases based on approved age-specific criteria. Current state law also allows a provision for waiver from these vaccinations based on medical reasons or personal or religious beliefs.
SB-277 will specifically eliminate the waiver related to personal beliefs. In other words, children will be required to receive and show documentation of all of age-specific vaccinations in order to attend any public or private school in California, unless they have a medical waiver stating otherwise. Therefore, children in California who do not receive vaccinations due to personal or religious beliefs will not be allowed to attend public or private school.
The intent of this bill is not to deprive children of an education, but to decrease the opportunity for the unintended spread of preventable illness. In the final week before the state Senate Education Committee's vote, the bill's authors revised the legislation to provide an avenue for education for children who will not be vaccinated due to personal belief. Any child enrolled in a home school or independent study program will be exempt from the bill and still be given a personal belief waiver.
To put the numbers into perspective, during the 2014-2015 school year, 535,000 students entered either public or private kindergarten in California. Of these students, 90.4% had received all of their required vaccinations prior to entering kindergarten. Just more than 1000 students (0.19%) had medical waivers on file, compared with more than 13,500 students (2.54%) who had personal belief wavers on file.
This bill appears to have balanced the concerns of parents who would like more done to prevent their children from being exposed to preventable disease while providing education options to those who wish to opt out of vaccinations due to personal or religious beliefs.