After its recent major measles outbreak, California is pretty close to becoming only the third state to deny vaccine exemptions for religious reasons. The state assembly today approved legislation that would require all kids entering public or private daycare, elementary school, or secondary school for the first time in the state, or advancing to seventh grade, to be vaccinated against measles, whooping cough, and other diseases, with the only exemption being for children who have a doctor-confirmed medical issue that would make vaccines dangerous. Under the new law, religious exemptions and other "personal or moral belief" exemptions would no longer be allowed; 31 other states already deny exemptions based on personal or moral beliefs, but most allow religious exemptions, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The state senate passed the legislation earlier this month, and is expected to approve the minor amendments the assembly made and then send the bill to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has not said publicly whether he'll sign but has said he considers vaccines "profoundly important." If he signs, it will take effect January 1 and will apply to kids entering the aforementioned institutions or grade levels as of next July, NPR reports. The Times refers to the law as "one of the toughest mandatory vaccination laws in the nation" and to the bill as "the most controversial taken up by the Legislature this year," but notes that the 46-31 approval vote was bipartisan. Hundreds of parents protested the bill at recent legislative hearings. Sample feelings:
- "We are pulling out all the stops," says an opponent, noting that court challenges and even a possible referendum are on the table. An assemblyman called it unconstitutional, saying it infringes "on the rights of certain students to attend school." (Non-vaccinated children would have to be home-schooled or utilize a public school's independent study program at home.)
- "While I respect the fundamental right to make that decision as a family, we must balance that with the fact that none of us has the right to endanger others," says an assemblywoman who supported the bill.