California senators approve strict new childhood vaccine laws

The California Senate voted 24-14 in favor of a controversial bill that would prevent parents from enrolling their children in private and public schooling if they opt out of vaccinating them based on religious or personal beliefs. The bill would still allow children who are unvaccinated due to medical conditions such as allergies or leukemia to attend school. The California Assembly voted to pass the bill, SB277, on Thursday. Now SB277 awaits approval or veto from Gov. Jerry Brown.

Some senators explained their decisions on twitter.

California sens. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) and Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) introduced the bill after the measles outbreak linked to Disneyland in December, the Associated Press reported.

The LA Times described the bill as “one of the toughest mandatory vaccination laws in the nation and would require more children to be vaccinated as a condition of school enrollment.”

Currently Mississippi and West Virginia are the only other states that have such bans.

Parents have taken to the streets and to twitter to voice their opposition to the bill. Concerned parents are using the hashtags #SB277 and #HearUs to tweet to Brown, asking him to veto the bill.

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Compared to other states, California is in the middle of the pack in vaccination rates among toddlers according to data from the Centers for Disease Control. However, there are several pockets of low vaccination rates within the state, leaving more than a quarter of schools below the 92-94 percent rate required for herd immunity to measles, according to the New York Times.

Under the bill, children currently enrolled in elementary school who are exempt from vaccination due to personal or religious beliefs can continue on with schooling until the seventh grade, at which point the parents can choose to vaccinate or home school their child. Children currently in day care can continue on until kindergarten, at which point they must be vaccinated or home schooled.

Brown did not say whether or not he would sign the bill prior to the Senate vote today. 

Update 12:44pm CT, June 30: California Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB277 into law on Tuesday morning.

Image via Makaristos/Wikipedia (PD) | Remix by Jason Reed

Cynthia McKelvey

Cynthia McKelvey

Cynthia McKelvey covered the health and science for the Daily Dot until 2017. She earned a graduate degree in science communication from the University of California Santa Cruz in 2014. Her work has appeared in Gizmodo, Scientific American Mind, and Mic.com.