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Vaccine Exemption Ban Faces Legislative Test in California This Week

California is one of 20 states that currently allow vaccine exemptions based on a person’s religious beliefs or other reasons of conscience. This Wednesday, Senate Bill 277 (SB 277) begins an uphill journey through California’s legislature in an attempt to remove all vaccine exemptions, except for medical ones.

The Democrat-led SB 277–co-authored by Dr. Richard Pan, State Senator Ben Allen, and Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez–would not just repeal the state’s religious exemption clause, but it would also deem that only children who have received immunization against highly-contagious diseases such as measles and whooping cough would be permitted into schools, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

There is no guarantee that the bill will survive its journey through the nine-member Senate Health Committee followed by the education, judiciary and appropriations committees, before ultimately requiring clearance from both Democratic-controlled chambers and having Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown provide his signature for final passage.

The Mercury News reportedly conducted an informal survey of Senate Health Committee members and found that three will vote “yes” on the bill with one member “leaning yes” and one “no” vote, leaving four that are still “undecided”.

“People think this is about people who are anti-science and not trusting of the government when in fact if you look at a map of California as to where the vaccine rates are the lowest, they’re not in the Central Valley or Orange County,” Bill Whalen told the Mercury News.

Whalen, who was a top aide to former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson and now serves as a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, said, the lowest vaccination rates are “in places like Marin County and Santa Monica,” Both of which are Democratic strongholds and among the most affluent enclaves of the Golden State.

Many people have reportedly been writing emails, letters and making phone calls to the Senate appealing for them to kill the bill, including Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who was directly responsible for helping foil similar legislative efforts in Oregon recently, the Mercury News notes. Similar legislation also failed to pass in Washington State.

For some, there may be one major factor setting California’s bill up for passage. Professor Dorit Reiss–who is a vaccine law expert at UC San Francisco’s Hastings College of the Law–told the Mercury News that SB 277 might pass because “California was the place where the measles outbreak started“–i.e. at Disneyland this winger.

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz

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