SACRAMENTO – Bill that would require more California children to be vaccinated before they enter school was approved Wednesday by the Senate Education Committee, a week after it stalled when members of the panel voiced concerns that it would deprive many young people of an education.
The bill next goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration of its legal ramifications.
The measure by Democratic Sens. Richard Pan of Sacramento and Ben Allen of Santa Monica would eliminate the option of parents to exempt their children from vaccinations based on a “personal belief,” meaning the only waiver available would be for medical reasons.
“While this bill won’t reach everyone, it will increase everyone’s safety against preventable diseases,” Allen told the committee Wednesday. “We think we’ve struck a fair balance here that provides more options to parents who are concerned about not vaccinating their children.”
Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino) voted against the bill, which was approved by a vote of 7-2. “I just still have a concern it will not go far enough to help a two-income family who can’t home-school their child or a single, working parent.”
More than a hundred opponents of the bill, many wearing red shirts, packed the committee hearing Wednesday and many said afterward they would continue their opposition as the bill heads to Judiciary Committee.
“I am shocked and disappointed,” said Tina Kimmel, an opponent who said she is a former research scientist with the Department of Public Health.
More than 13,500 California kindergarten students have waivers due to their parents’ personal beliefs, including 2,764 based on religious beliefs, state health statistics show.
The measure was introduced partly in response to a measles outbreak that began at Disneyland and eventually infected 131 California residents as well as at least 26 people in seven other states, Canada and Mexico.
However, many parents and their children testified against the measure last week, saying they didn’t believe vaccines were safe and worried that the bill would deprive young people of the right to an education. Committee members including Chairwoman Carol Liu (D-La Cañada-Flintridge) had voiced similar concerns last week.
Since then, Pan and Allen changed their bill to broaden an exemption for home-schooled children by deleting reference to students having to be members of the same household or family. That would allow multiple families to join in home-schooling their children and also receive the vaccination exemption.
Another change would add an exemption for students enrolled in an independent study program run by a public school system.