SACRAMENTO — Rookie State Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) is co-sponsoring a bill to repeal an exemption that currently lets parents opt their kids out of getting vaccinations for schools.

The bill comes amidst a measles outbreak that has spread widely in Southern California.

Earlier this week, a baby, too young to receive the measles vaccine, attending a Santa Monica preschool, was diagnosed with the disease. As a result, 14 other babies at the preschool will remain under quarantine for three weeks. Earlier this month, a Santa Monica High School baseball coach was diagnosed with measles.

Allen’s bill, co-sponsored by Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), would repeal the personal belief exemption. Some parents believe that the vaccine is harmful and file waivers with schools, under the exemption, allowing their children to go unvaccinated.

Additionally, the bill would notify parents of their kid’s school immunization rates.

Samohi has a waiver rate of 7 percent, Gail Pinsker, spokesperson for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District told the Daily Press earlier this week. The district’s waiver rate was most recently tabbed at 11.5 percent, a decrease from 14.8 percent a year earlier.

“The high number of unvaccinated students is jeopardizing public health not only in schools but in the broader community,” Allen said in a release. “We need to take steps to keep our schools safe and our students healthy.”

Allen attended Samohi and served on the Board of Education until November, when he won election to the state senate.

“As a pediatrician, I’ve been worried about the anti-vaccination trend for a long time,” Pan said in the release. “I’ve personally witnessed the suffering caused by these preventable diseases and I am very grateful to the many parents that are now speaking up and letting us know that our current laws don’t protect their kids.”

Pan has authored legislation in the past, adding barriers for parents seeking the exemption. A 2012 bill authored by Pan requires parents looking to avoid vaccinating their kids to speak with a licensed health care practitioner about the impacts to their child and the community. According to the statement from Pan’s and Allen’s offices, there was a decrease in the number of parents who filed exemptions in the year after the bill was introduced.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) has signed on as an early co-author of the new measure.

As a mother, I know the decisions we make about our children’s healthcare are deeply personal,” she said in the release. “And, while I respect that fundamental right to make medical decisions for your own family, a parent’s decision to ignore science and medical facts puts other children at risk. We as a state can’t condone that.”

If the legislation passes, according to the statement from the state senators, California will join thrity-two other states that don’t allow parents to opt out of vaccination requirements by using a personal belief exemption.

dave@smdp.com

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