Senators Richard Pan and Ben Allen’s SB 277 Passes Senate Education Committee on Bipartisan Vote

Legislation will protect every student’s right to be safe at school by closing California vaccine loophole

April 22, 2015

SACRAMENTO – Senate Bill 277, authored by Dr. Richard Pan, a pediatrician and Senator representing Sacramento and Senator Ben Allen, the former Board President of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District to abolish the personal belief exemption that currently allows parents to opt their child out of vaccines in our schools was passed today on a vote of 7 to 2 in the Senate Education Committee.

Dr. Pan and Senator 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 this bill is urgently needed to protect the health of our students and our greater community,” said Dr. Richard 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 Senator Ben 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, the San Francisco Unified School District, the Counties of San Francisco, Los Angeles, Marin, Yolo and Santa Clara.  For a complete list: http://sd06.senate.ca.gov/news/2015-04-14-broad-bipartisan-base-support-includes-family-child-advocates-health-care-providers.

“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 their child 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.  However, choice brings with it responsibility, and under the proposed measure, parents who decide not to vaccinate will have to home-school their children, participate in a multi-family private home-school or use public school independent study that exists in current law and is administered by local education agencies. 

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. 

Many myths are spread about the safety of vaccines. For facts on vaccines and SB 277, go here: http://sd06.senate.ca.gov/news/2015-04-15-vaccines-senate-bill-277-fact-vs-myth.

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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