California lawmakers have passed a bill to require mandatory vaccinations for almost all California school children, while denying parents the right to object based on personal or religious beliefs.
Gov. Jerry Brown now has to decide if he will sign the bill into law.
It would require any child enrolling in public daycare or public school to be vaccinated against diseases like measles and whooping cough and only children with medical problems like immune system deficiencies would be exempt, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Those who decline the vaccinations would have to enroll their children in a home-based private school or public independent study program based off campus.
The bill was one of the most contentious taken up by the Legislature this year, attracting large, vocal crowds of parents during a series of legislative hearings on the measure.
Those in favor of the proposal argued that it was needed to boost statewide immunization rates.
“The science remains unequivocal that vaccines are safe and vaccines save lives,” said Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), a pediatrician and an author of the bill.
Some Republican senators said the bill was government overreach. Sen. Joel Anderson (R-Alpine) called it “a direct attack on our liberty and a violation of our parental rights.”
Opponents of the bill rallied at the Capitol asking Brown to veto the measure.
“I am asking you to protect his health,” said participant Julianna Pearce, referring to her son, Nathan, who she said suffered a severe reaction to a vaccine at 23 months old. “If there is a risk, there must be a choice.”
At a news conference held by the bill’s authors, Hannah Henry, a supporter, said she saw public health benefits in higher immunization rates.
“The return of preventable infectious disease to our schools and to our communities is too frightening to bear,” said Henry, a Napa mother who co-founded the advocacy group Vaccinate California.
Brown has until July 13 to act on the measure. Evan Westrup, a spokesman for the governor, said Brown “believes that vaccinations are profoundly important and a major public health benefit and this bill will be closely considered.”
The state Senate, which first approved the measure in May, voted 24 to 14 Monday in favor of minor amendments to the legislation, SB 277 by Pan and Democrat Benjamin Allen of Santa Monica. It passed the Assembly last week.
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