California legislature passes strict school vaccine bill

Opponents of a measure requiring nearly all California school children to be vaccinated gathered on the west steps of the Capitol after lawmakers approved the bill, in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, June 25, 2015. The bill, SB277 co-authored by state Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento and Ben Allen D-Santa Monica was approved by the Assembly. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

SACRAMENTO (KRON/AP) — State lawmakers on Monday sent Gov. Jerry Brown a controversial vaccine bill that would impose one of the strictest school immunizations laws in the country.

The bill would require mandatory vaccinations for most children in public schools, in a move to end exemptions from state vaccine laws based on religious or other personal beliefs.

The Senate approved the legislation on a 24-14 vote.

If it becomes law, California would join Mississippi and West Virginia with such strict vaccine requirements in place.

The legislation would allow children with physician-confirmed medical conditions such as allergies and immune-system deficiencies to be excused from immunization.

A spokesman for Gov. Brown last week stopped short of saying that the governor would sign the bill. Spokesman Evan Westrup said that the governor believes that vaccinations are a major health benefit and that the bill would be “closely considered.”

Senate Bill 277 has faced heated opposition from parents who have held large protests at the Capitol in recent weeks. Both legislative Republicans and some Democrats have come to their defense, asserting that the state is eliminating informed consent and trampling on parental rights.

Despite fervent pushback, the bill passed both the Senate and the Assembly with bipartisan support.

The Senate on Monday voted on changes made to the bill in the Assembly that make it easier to obtain medical exemptions. The amendment would allow doctors to use a family’s medical history as an evaluating factor.

The bill authors also agreed to establish a grandfather clause, allowing students who currently claim a personal belief exemption to maintain it until their next vaccine checkpoint.

The bill was introduced following an outbreak of measles at Disneyland that ultimately infected more than 150 people.

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