On Tuesday, California legislators advanced a controversial bill that would impose one of the strictest vaccine laws in the country. A measure would allow only vaccinated children to attend public and private schools in California. It would also repeal California’s current “personal belief exemption” and religious exemptions. SB-277 has already passed the State Senate and is headed for a final vote in the Assembly.
Only Mississippi and West Virginia do not allow any nonmedical exemptions to vaccination requirements for school entry. However, other states will probably follow California if SB-277 is enacted.
Supporters of the bill say it is needed to ensure public safety. They insist that if the bill becomes law, it will bring California schools up to a level of vaccination needed for “herd immunity” – the critical percentage needed to prevent small outbreaks from becoming epidemics. According to the bill’s author, “in early 2015, California became the epicenter of a measles outbreak, which spread in large part because of communities with large numbers of unvaccinated people.” CDC states there have been more cases of measles in January 2015 than in any one month in the past 20 years. A measles outbreak at Disneyland sickened more than 100 in the U.S. and Mexico.
Opponents say the bill violates parents’ rights to choose what’s best for their children. On June 6, some of those parents waited for hours for their turn to testify in front of the legislative committee. They insist that the bill is an unnecessary government overreach.
This is how the legislative committee vote went on Tuesday:
YES: Bonilla, Bonta, Chiu, Gomez, Gonzalez, Roger Hernández, Nazarian, Ridley-Thomas, Rodriguez, Santiago, Thurmond, Wood
NO: Chávez, Lackey, Maienschein, Patterson, Steinorth, Waldron
DIDN’T VOTE: Burke