Senate Bill 277, authored by Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) and Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) to abolish the personal belief exemption that currently allows parents to opt out of vaccinating their children prior to school enrollment passed the Senate Education Committee on a 7-2 vote on April 22.

Pan and Allen presented amendments that protect every student’s right to be safe at school while preserving every student’s right to an education.

“Vaccines are one of our greatest medical advancements and to protect the health of our students and our greater community, this bill is urgently needed to boost vaccination rates,” said Pan, a State Senator representing Sacramento. “This measure will ensure that students whose parents choose to not vaccinate them have several educational options that don’t put other children at risk of contracting vaccine-preventable diseases.”

“Today’s amendments reflect our commitment to increase everyone’s safety against vaccine-preventable diseases while ensuring every child has a place to learn,” said Allen.

A long list of school boards, education groups, local governments, health organizations and parent and child advocacy groups support SB 277. The list includes: the American Academy of Pediatrics, Vaccinate California, California State PTA, California Medical Association, California Immunization Coalition, Health Officers Association of California, the Los Angeles Unified School District, Solano Beach School District, San Francisco Unified School District, the Counties of San Francisco, Los Angeles, Marin, Yolo and Santa Clara.

“As a mom, I am so grateful for today’s vote,” said Leah Russin a mother from Palo Alto who is advocating for passage of SB 277 to protect her 18-month son from vaccine-preventable diseases. “My son and his friends deserve to be protected from preventable disease as school.”

Currently, a parent may choose to opt out of school vaccine requirements that bi-partisan legislative majorities passed to protect students. SB 277 will remove that option, so that only a medical exemption would remain. SB 277 will not remove a parent’s choice to vaccinate his or her child.

When a contagion spreads in a community with immunization rates below 90 percent, the protection provided by ”herd immunity’ can be at risk. This means many people are at risk of becoming infected including people who cannot be immunized, including infants, chemotherapy patients and those with HIV or other conditions.

The hesitation to vaccinate on the part of a growing number of parents stems from misinformation such as the now retracted 1998 study that falsified data to purport a link between autism and the measles vaccine. The study was authored by Andrew Wakefield who was later found to be lying. Also, numerous subsequent studies worldwide involving hundreds of thousands of children have proved that vaccines are safe and do not cause autism.

If SB 277 becomes law, California will join thirty-two other states that don’t allow parents to opt out of vaccination requirements using a personal belief exemption.

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