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Governor signs bill requiring vaccinations, local pediatrician reacts 

Sen. Richard Pan speaks at a press conference for SB 277, which was signed into law today. The bill requires all school children to be immunized.  Courtesy photo

Sen. Richard Pan speaks at a press conference for SB 277, which was signed into law Tuesday. The bill requires all school children to be immunized. Courtesy photo

Personal-preference loophole removed from legislation

– Governor Jerry Brown signed bill SB 277 into law on Tuesday, which eliminates personal and religious beliefs as reasons not to immunize children who will be attending public or private school in the state of California.

In his signing message, Brown wrote, “The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases. While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.”

The bill does not require immunizations for children educated in home-school environments, but will extend to all children entering both private and public schools. The text of the bill reads that, “it is the intent of the legislature to provide … a means for the eventual achievement of total immunization of appropriate age groups against the following childhood diseases: Diphtheria; hepatitis B; haemophilus influenzae type B; measles, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), poliomyelitis; rubella; tetanus; and varicella (chicken pox).”

Paso Robles Pediatrician Dr. Laura Herzberg has been practicing medicine in Paso Robles for 14 years with the past eight at the CHC. She said SB 277 is important to the well being of the community.

“Overall, this is a big win for public health,” Herzberg said. “Immunizations are as important to public health as is clean water. They are critical, not just for the well-being of children, but to protect the entire community. This is not just a personal decision. As a pediatrician, I am very excited and energized to see that California is ready to raise the standards for our children and communities by eliminating the personal belief exemption.  This will raise our overall vaccination rate so that we can achieve the 95% rate needed to maintain herd immunity.”

Herzberg compared failing to get immunizations to other acts she described as reckless that do not affect only the decision-maker.

“Someone may make the choice to drive drunk and they may have an accident and may only suffer minor injuries but they may crash into a car with a family of five, killing off the baby, the grandpa, causing life-changing injuries to the three-year-old boy and his pregnant mom,” she said. “Maybe the driver comes out okay, however because the drunk driver is able to walk away, he is likely to drink and drive again.”

The law is a disappointment to groups who fought against it, such as Californians for Vaccine Choice, who feel that the bill is an encroachment on personal rights.

“It is a tragic day for California and a tragic day for America,” a recent post by the group said. “A new battle will begin in the courts now. We will not back down. We will not go away. No matter how long it takes, we will protect our children and the parents’ right to choose.”

The bill was co-authored by Sens. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento who is a pediatrician and Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica.

“It is our duty and responsibility to protect all children who attend schools in California,” Pan said in a press release earlier this year. “SB 277 was introduced because parents are speaking up and letting us know that current laws are not enough to protect their children. As a pediatrician I have personally witnessed the suffering caused by diseases that are preventable, and I am very grateful to all those parents who are speaking up as a result of the recent measles outbreak.”

Added Allen, “It is easy to forget what it was like before we had broad-based vaccinations and there was a lot of suffering and even death from serious infectious diseases. We cannot risk returning to those days.  Parents should not have to live in fear of their child contracting a potentially fatal disease at school or in the grocery store because of another parent’s choice not to vaccinate their child.”

To read the full text of the bill, go to http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billCompareClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160SB277

 

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