New Data Released Today Shows the Percentage of Medical Exemptions Have More than Quadrupled Since Passage of SB 277 in 2015

Senate Bill 276 will strengthen oversight of the medial exemption process, which some doctors in the state are abusing by selling medical exemptions to parents

June 5, 2019

SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) released their annual immunization assessment today, showing that the percentage of Kindergartners with permanent medical exemptions have risen once again from 0.2 percent prior to the passage of SB 277 in 2015, to 0.9 percent this year.

“I am authoring SB 276 because the exponential growth of medical exemptions for required vaccines is putting kids and communities at risk, as evident by the measles outbreaks we have seen this year” said Dr. Richard Pan. “This new data shows the continued inexplicable rise in medical exemptions and demonstrate, once again, the necessity of SB 276. We must protect students who truly need a medical exemption.”

“I’m discouraged to see medical exemptions yet again rising.  This data underscores the need for SB276.  Fake medical exemptions are endangering our children and communities,” said Leah Russin, a mother from Palo Alto and co-founder of Vaccinate California, a group of parents who volunteer their time and energy to support vaccines in California.

The report can be found here:

As a result of the implementation of Senate Bill 277, which abolished the personal belief exemption in California, overall vaccination rates increased sharply statewide since 2015.  Today’s report shows that immunization rates remain high, but have decreased slightly over the last two years. The report shows that 94.8 percent of kindergarteners in 2018-2019 have been vaccinated, a 0.3 percent decrease from the 2017-2018 school year. Statewide, that is greater than the 94 percent vaccination rate necessary to achieve community immunity to prevent the spread of a measles outbreak.

In the 2010-2011 school year, the vaccine rate was only 90.7 percent. That was before Dr. Pan authored AB 2109 in 2013 requiring parents to be counseled before they opted out of legally mandated vaccines.  In the 2015-2016 school year, the vaccine rate was 92.9 percent statewide and 95.6 percent in the 2016-17 school year, after implementation of SB 277 in 2016.

However, California has also experienced a dramatic increase in the number of medical exemptions. Since the passage of SB 277, the rate of medical exemptions has steadily risen. Last year it had tripled (from 0.2 percent in 2015-16 to 0.7 percent in 2017-18).  CDPH’s data today shows the percentage has quadrupled to 0.9 percent. Low vaccination rates in certain pockets of the state have put children and communities at risk. More than 100 schools have a medical exemption rate over 10 percent, far beyond what should be expected, putting children and communities at risk.

A very small percentage of the population, less than 1 percent, suffers from qualifying medical condition, such as a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine component that would lead to the granting of medical exemption.

Under SB 276, physicians will submit information to CDPH, including the physician’s name and license number and the reason for the exemption, which CDPH will check to ensure they are consistent with the Center for Disease Control’s contraindications to vaccination. The physician must also certify that they have examined the patient in person.

Additionally, under SB 276, CDPH will create and maintain a database of medical exemptions. CDPH and County Health Officers will have the authority to revoke medical exemptions granted by licensed physicians if they are found to be fraudulent or inconsistent with contraindications to vaccination per CDC guidelines. This authority will give state and county health officers the tools necessary to contain and prevent further outbreaks.

CDPH reports the number of confirmed measles cases here, which have reached 47 in just the first five months of the year. The vaccine schedule prevents other types of diseases as well, including pertussis, (also known as whooping cough), which is marked by severe coughing attacks that can last for months. Infants too young for vaccination are at greatest risk for life-threatening cases of pertussis, and a baby in Orange County died from the disease last week.

When measles spreads in a community with immunization rates below 94 percent, the protection provided by ‘community immunity’ is lost. 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.