California Vaccination Bill Clears Full Senate

     SACRAMENTO (CN) – After much-frenzied debate and a succession of Republican-proposed amendments, the California state Senate on Thursday voted through a controversial bill mandating vaccinations for school children.
     In an expected result, the Senate voted 25-10 in favor of Senate Bill 277, which removes personal-belief exemptions from parents and would make California the third state without religious or personal-belief exemptions.
     The vote mostly followed party lines and nearly all had already heard and voted on the bill in prior committee hearings.
     Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, the son of a polio survivor, coauthored the bill and said it provides a sense of security for parents and prevents future outbreaks of diseases like measles.
     “The silent majority supports vaccines and wants the assurance that their child’s school has high immunization rates or community immunity and that there’s protection when they send their kid to school,” Allen testified.
     Unlike any other bill proposed this year, SB 277 has ignited passion from both sides of the debate, including both lawmakers and parents. Like prior committee hearings, Thursday’s vote was well attended by parents and opponents of the bill.
     At one point, Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, threatened to have children removed from the room if they continued to interrupt the floor hearing and demanded spectators refrain from clapping after testimony.
     Several Republicans proposed amendments to the bill, including an option to allow parents to claim a religious exemption for their children. In all, six amendments were proposed but were tabled by majority vote.
     Sen. Joel Anderson, R-San Diego, testified that some vaccines contain aborted fetal cells and that parents have a right to know what’s inside the vaccines. Anderson passionately testified that SB 277 violates the religious freedom the country was founded on.
     “In each one of these amendments, what we’ve said is, should that vaccination cost me my religious faith?” Anderson asked. “Do you have a right to steal my soul without my knowledge?”
     Thursday’s Senate vote came after the authors of SB 277 made last-minute changes to skip past the last committee hearing. After hurdling through the Senate, the bill now faces the 120-member Assembly where it will be heard for the first time.
     That vote should involve more lengthy debate and fireworks.
     The vaccination bill was authored by Richard Pan – a Democrat from Sacramento and a practicing pediatrician – and Allen, largely in response to a measles outbreak that started at Disneyland this past December and infected 173 people from 17 states. The outbreak lasted four months and data revealed that 80 percent of the cases occurred in individuals who were not vaccinated.
     One of the three Republican yes votes came from Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Murrieta, a doctor who reiterated the authors’ concerns about the danger of measles.
     “It remains one of the leading causes of death among young children worldwide, even though a cost-effective vaccine has been available and has been used safely over the past 40 years,” Murrieta testified.

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