Governor signs bill eliminating 'personal belief' exemption for vaccinations


Come July 2016, California parents will no longer be able to claim a "personal belief" exemption from requirements that all children in schools or daycare be immunized. Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill June 30 that will end the exemption for personal and religious beliefs.

"The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases," Gov. Brown said in his signing letter. "While it's true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community."

On July 1, Tim Donnelly, a former state legislator and Republican candidate for governor from Southern California, filed paperwork required to allow voters to repeal the law. If the required number of signatures are gathered the measure could be brought to a statewide vote as a referendum.

Other opponents of the measure have vowed to file lawsuits against it once it goes into effect, saying it would deprive children of the constitutional right to a free and public education.

The existing law allows parents to be exempted from the vaccination requirements because of personal beliefs, after meeting with a medical professional who has explained the dangers of non-vaccination; because they state they have a religious objection; or because they show their child has medical reasons not to be vaccinated.

Under the new law, parents may be exempted from the vaccination requirements only by a medical doctor who certifies there are circumstances (such as a family's medical history or other medical problems) that indicate against immunizations. Public or private schools and daycare facilities will not be allowed to admit any other non-vaccinated child. Children being home schooled are not affected.

The new law takes effect in July 2016, and contains a grandfathering clause for children who had an existing personal belief or religious exemption in effect before January 1, 2016. Those children will be allowed to continue to attend school or daycare without the required vaccinations until they reach the next "grade span."

Grade spans are defined in the bill as birth to preschool, transitional kindergarten through grade six and grades seven to twelve. That means a first grader in the fall of 2016 who had a personal belief exemption in kindergarten could attend school through sixth grade without vaccinations; but would not be admitted to seventh grade without proof of vaccination.

Senate Bill 277 passed the state Senate in May on a 25-10 vote and the state Assembly on June 25 by a vote of 46 to 30. The Senate approved Assembly amendments on June 29.

The growing number of children not being immunized came under scrutiny last year after a measles outbreak started in Disneyland and spread widely.

Public health officials say that if the percentage of immunized children falls below a certain threshhold, the "herd immunity" that protects those in the community who cannot be immunized, is lost. Those with compromised immune systems and infants make up most of the group who cannot be immunized.

When the Almanac reported on this issue in February, Menlo Park's Peninsula School, according to statistics from the California Department of Public Health, had the highest reported percentage of personal-belief exemptions in San Mateo County for the 2014-15 school year: 30 percent of that year's 30 kindergartners (nine students).

The opt-out rate at Peninsula has been even higher in the past. State statistics show that the school had a 46 percent personal-belief exemption rate for children in its 2010-11 kindergarten class.

Las Lomitas School in Atherton has the highest public school opt-out rate in the local area. In February, the school said that of its 137 kindergartners, eight students were opted out with personal-belief exemptions and two others with permanent medical exemptions.

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22 people like this
Posted by Steve
a resident of Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
on Jun 29, 2015 at 2:35 pm

I am glad for this science-based decision for the common good, and I fully support the proposed law. At the same time, I hope that state and county authorities will embark on a campaign of education and empathy to provide reassurance to people who will experience the state as heavy-handed in trumping personal choice. We need to cultivate a sense of civic duty and belonging, so that people are glad to contribute to the social good, instead of dismissing their concerns.

Let's be rigorous on the science and kind to the people.

2 people like this
Posted by Water
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2015 at 6:52 pm

Steve - via the 2012 law, kind counseling is already being done. It's helped some, but not enough. Too many of them are hyper-fearful science deniers and conspiracy theorists. I doubt even the completely avoidable and tragic death of the 6 year old boy in Barcelona is enough to convince them. The serious outbreak of 300 measles cases wasn't enough to convince them. And one mom recently had to be led out of the hearings for this bill while screaming that her child is more important than other children. Sen Pan now has a personal security detail. Scientologists and black Muslims gave joined the fight, as has an unhinged anti-gay group. Check out the fringe who aren't being stopped by their more balanced counterparts:

Web Link

I hope Brown signs it and I hope that non-vaccinating parents without medical exemptions will start to be held accountable for their choices.

6 people like this
Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 30, 2015 at 12:43 pm

I'm glad to see Senator Pan, the Legislature and the Governor act so quickly and decisively after the recent measles outbreak at Disneyland.

This common-sense measure will have an immediate and positive impact on the citizens of California.

5 people like this
Posted by Menlo Parker
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 30, 2015 at 12:51 pm

From watching a Frontline report and reading articles during the timeframe of the Disney Measles outbreak from established news outlets like the Associated Press and Forbes, the anti-vaccine crowd that used the personal belief exemption tend to be rich people with no religious objection, hence the development of the "personal belief" legal language, and who are not science deniers, but who think that the scientists are missing their own observations, e.g. when the onset of autism occurred in relation to getting a vaccine. All the studies done, no matter by whom, showing no link gives them no solace. Places like Malibu and Atherton are more likely to have non-vaccinated kids than places of lower economic wealth. The wealth, and hence political savvy, of the anti-vaccine crowd are also probably why the personal belief exemption came into being. Basically, there had to be a number of public health breakouts of whooping cough and measles to get this law passed. One commentator in Forbes noted that parents of unvaccinated children may be liable for the deaths of other children in these outbreaks who were vaccinated or could not be for medical reasons. Things were starting to move against the anti-vaccine crowd. So attributing this anti-vaccination movement to "fringe" groups seems a bit of a rewrite of history, unless of course you consider wealthy people a fringe group. The sad thing is, of course, children had to suffer due to the lowering of herd immunity, and I do have compassion for the parents of children who developed autism, and they wonder why my child, and turned to vaccines as the culprit. I hope they look ahead to helping their children live the best lives they can.

Like this comment
Posted by Water
a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2015 at 4:12 pm

Menlo Parker - IIRC, the lowest vax rate locally is amongst the students of Peninsula School in Menlo Park.

You may want to check out the article link I posted in my comment yesterday. Gov Brown #1 made the PBE possible due to reactions from several factions comprised of women's rights, conservationists, anti-gov't and uber-eco types. Combine their concerns with the suspicion of gov't post-Watergate and the result was PBEs.

Depending on what report you read/hear, the anti-vaxxer demographic may be misrepresented. But there are generally two factions of the most active and vocally opposed: wealthier lefties and conservative righties, often religious righties. Depending on where in the country you are you'll find more or less of these factions. Now there are also Black Muslims included. There has always been anti-gov't sentiment amongst them and the far right, so it's not surprising that they're anti-vaxx.

At this point in Calif public health history over the past decades, we now have more than one generation of families going unvaccinated.

The privileged whites are the most troublesome because their sense of entitlement seems to have caused them to believe that they understand vaccine science and epidemiology. Clearly, they're wrong. Check out the stark scientific reality of the unvaccinated boy dying in Spain of diptheria the other day vs the pseudo reality his parents bought into. Let's hope that the vaccinated children also bring treated were correctly vaccinated and don't become ill.

2 people like this
Posted by Citizen 7
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2015 at 12:30 am

It bothers me that the pharmaceutical companies are shielded from liability associated with these vaccines:

"In a closely watched case, the high court ruled 6-2 that federal law shields vaccine makers from suits filed in state courts seeking compensation for injuries or deaths due allegedly to avoidable design problems with the vaccines".

"Supreme Court Upholds Liability Shield For Vaccine Makers"
NPR ~ February 22, 2011 Web Link

9 people like this
Posted by Water
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2015 at 7:38 am

Citizen 7 - don't you understand why they're shielded? It's part of a public health policy. Also, the gov't has a vaccine damages court that has a pretty low bar of "proof" needed and will even pay a complainant's filing fee. It's much more efficient than if the companies weren't shielded.

3 people like this
Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jul 1, 2015 at 9:10 am

pogo is a registered user.

Citizen 7 -

Vaccines are the least profitable product produced by big pharma. Large quantities, low prices. In fact they are so unprofitable that few companies even bother to make them anymore.

One of the reasons that drug companies stopped making vaccines is that they were being sued so frequently prior to 2011. Many of the suits were speculative and had questionable links to the actual vaccine.

It seems disingenuous to assure the public that vaccines are unquestionably safe, mandate that their children are inoculated.... but insist that you can still sue manufacturers for problems. You shouldn't be able to have it both ways.

8 people like this
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 1, 2015 at 11:39 am

Re: vaccines link to autism - That theory has been disproven & discarded. The doctor who first publicized & promoted it later admitted that his theory was wrong and he & his research have been widely discredited.
The other proponent for this fallacy is Jenny McCarthy, a celeb of some sort who speaks publicly, referencing her son. It's recently been determined that her son's problems are not actually autism but some other pscho-social disorder.

7 people like this
Posted by Water
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2015 at 1:40 pm

Wakefield wasn't just discredited, he committed fraud and lost his medical license. It wasn't like he made a mistake, he committed a serious crime.

Like this comment
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jul 1, 2015 at 4:46 pm

Has anyone read "Vaccine Epidemic"? Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by @Jack Hickey
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2015 at 5:10 pm

Anti-vaxxer propaganda? Really?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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