Hours of contentious debate in California’s Senate Judiciary Committee resulted in a 5-1 vote earlier this week to advance SB 277, a bill that would eliminate parents’ ability to exempt their children from required vaccinations on the basis of personal belief.
On a previous stopover in the Senate Education Committee, heated debate kept the bill from easy passage. After a short delay and amendments narrowly expanding homeschool and independent study alternatives, it eventually passed with a 7-2 vote.
Tuesday’s high-tension Judiciary hearing still brought out scores of opponents, rallying and dressed in red.
Bill co-sponsor Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) stated during the hearing, “This is not a mandated vaccine bill.” However, analysis for the bill repeatedly calls it a “mandatory” vaccine requirement.
Currently only two states have neither a personal belief nor religious exemption for vaccinations required by the state for enrollment in school according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
California parents choosing not to have a child vaccinated for each disease required for enrollment in private or public school, day care, nursery school, developmental center or family day care home under the new bill are relegated to the options of home school or independent study.
The bill’s authors argue in bill analysis that, “Between 2000 and 2012, the number of Personal Belief Exemptions (PBE) from vaccinations required for school entry that were filed rose by 337 [percent].”
However, since the relatively recent installation of AB 2109, a 16-month old bill requiring health professionals to discuss both benefits and risks associated with vaccination, the percentage of personal belief waivers on file have voluntarily decreased to 2.54% according to California Department of Public Health (CDPH) records among 2014-15 California kindergarteners.
The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) wrote in a letter cited in the bill analysis that it, “does not believe there has been a sufficient showing of need at present to warrant conditioning access to education on mandatory vaccination for each of the diseases covered by this bill for every school district in the state.”
SB 277 appeared after a measles outbreak that began in Disneyland last December. While it was acknowledged again in Tuesday’s hearing that patient zero was never uncovered, based on strains of the disease noted in CDPH records, the strain likely came from abroad.
The bill now proceeds to the Senate Appropriations committee.
Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana