Vaccination Bill Hurdles Calif. Senate Committee

     SACRAMENTO (CN) – California lawmakers voted 5-1 in favor of a bill that blocks parents from using a personal-belief exemption to refuse vaccinating their children.
     Following the trend of the previous three hearings, Tuesday’s hearing of the California Senate Judiciary Committee lasted over three hours and the Capitol was again packed with hundreds of SB 277 opponents dressed in red.
     The usual suspense was missing from the hearing, however, as every Democrat on the committee had voted in favor of the bill on a prior committee or was a co-sponsor of the bill.
     Tuesday’s committee marks the third panel to advance the vaccination bill, and the Senate Appropriations Committee is the final vote before the bill heads to the Senate floor. The bill is almost assured of success in the Senate vote as it has already received yes votes from close to the 21 senators it would need to gain majority.
     The committee praised the bill’s authors, Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, for adding amendments to home-schooling requirements and narrowing the required immunizations to the 10 diseases currently advocated by the California Department of Public Health.
     SB 277 allows parents to forgo immunizations on any disease added to the immunization list in the future.
     Current mandatory vaccinations include diseases like measles, mumps, tetanus, chicken pox and rubella.
     Sen. Robert Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, said the amendment should appease opponents who say drug companies will continue to pressure politicians into adding further immunizations.
     “We do not have this long, open-ended issue and these perverse incentives,” Hertzberg said.
     While Tuesday’s voting result was apparent to most, opponents from across California showed up in full force to testify against the bill.
     Parents claiming to have vaccine-injured children, and even a world-champion mixed martial arts fighter told the committee that forcing vaccinations is wrong. UFC fighter Urijah Faber said he’s unvaccinated and that he opposes SB 277.
     Chairwoman Hannah Beth-Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, asked Sen. Pan about the large number of parents in attendance who claimed to have vaccine-injured children and what exactly the term describes.
     Pan, a pediatrician, said the term is “not used by the medical field,” and it’s not always clear what “vaccine injured” means.
     If passed, SB 277 will still allow parents to forgo immunizations for their children attending public schools, but they will have to obtain a medical exemption. Pan said that, if for some reason a child was denied a medical exemption, parents would have the ability to seek a second opinion.
     Pan also refuted an opponent’s claim that doctors will be tentative and scared to issue medical exemptions to patients out of fear of retribution by their employer. Pan testified that to his knowledge, there has never been a doctor in California who has lost his license because of issuing a false medical exemption for vaccinating a child and that he’s given medical exemptions on occasion.

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