Calif. Governor Signs Child-Vaccination Bill

     SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – Clearing the way for some of the strictest child-immunization laws in the country, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Tuesday that removes the personal-belief exemptions.
     Brown’s signature comes just one day after the state Senate approved final changes to SB 277, which will force parents to immunize their children against 10 diseases or remove them from public school.
     In a letter to the Senate, Brown said the bill was appropriately amended to fix education concerns.
     “The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases,” Brown wrote . “While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.”
     Brown, a former Jesuit seminarian, was expected to sign the bill as he signed a similar bill in 2012 and has gone on record expressing the importance of vaccines. When the bill becomes law in 2016, California will join West Virginia and Mississippi as the only states where parents cannot claim personal-belief or religious exemptions.
     The hotly contested bill sparked lively debate regarding public safety and parents’ rights, with thousands of parents rallying against the bill lead by Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento. Pan introduced the bill in February and hurdled past four committees and eight Senate and Assembly votes.
     Brown emphasized that he gave the bill a careful examination before signing it.
     “SB 277 has occasioned widespread interest and controversy – with both proponents and opponents expressing their positions with eloquence and sincerity,” Brown’s letter states.
     Under SB 277, parents cannot opt out of state-mandated vaccinations for attending public school without a medical exemption from their child’s doctor.
     While opponents claim medical exemptions will be difficult to attain, Brown said the bill “explicitly provides an exemption” at the physician’s discretion.
     Critics and several lawmakers have expressed concerns over the constitutionality of SB 277 and whether it infringes on children’s education rights.
     With parents having already threatened lawsuits, Rep. Mike Gatto, D-Glendale, said, prior to the Assembly vote last week, that the bill has several faults and should expect legal challenges.
     “In fact, in circumstances like this, when considering unpopular opinions, we are on the hook for more vigilance,” Gatto testified.

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