Experts: California vaccine bill would prevent new outbreaks

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California Goes From Soft to Hard on Anti-Vaccine Movement?

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — If California's strict school vaccine bill becomes law, experts believe it could help prevent another outbreak like the one that occurred at Disneyland.

The bill was introduced after a measles outbreak traced to the theme park in December infected over 100 people in the U.S. and Mexico. It would likely be successful in increasing immunization rates and stopping the spread of disease, pediatric doctors said Monday after the Senate sent the legislation to the governor.

"Historically, we know that attaching requirements for school entry to vaccination has been one of the most successful ways to increase immunization rates," said Dr. Douglas Opel, a professor at the University of Washington who specializes in pediatric bioethics.

The bill strikes the state's personal belief exemption for vaccines. Children without a medical exemption, which will still be granted to those with serious health issues, will either have to be homeschooled or get fully vaccinated by kindergarten and seventh grade, the state's two vaccine checkpoints.

It applies to public and private schools, as well as day care facilities.

The Senate reaffirmed the bill on a 24-14 vote. Mississippi and West Virginia are the only two states with such strict requirements in place.

The bill has prompted the most heated legislative debate of the year, with thousands of parents taking to social media and flooding the Capitol in recent weeks to oppose the bill at legislative hearings. Similar legislation was dropped in Oregon earlier this year because opposition was so fierce.

Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown has not said if he would sign the bill, which he has 12 days to consider.

"The governor believes that vaccinations are profoundly important and a major public health benefit, and any bill that reaches his desk will be closely considered," spokesman Evan Westrup has repeated in recent days.

Democratic Sens. Richard Pan and Ben Allen, the bill's sponsors, have said it is a crucial public health measure.

"The science remains unequivocal that vaccines are safe, that vaccines save lives," Pan said during Monday's floor debate.

Opponents of the bill have pushed back, saying it restricts parental rights with the false promise of stopping the spread of communicable disease.

"Patient zero can still come into our country and infect people," said Sen. Joel Anderson. "Patient zero isn't those unvaccinated kids. They're the victims of people, of our failure to ensure that we're providing a safe environment when foreigners come to our country, or when we've travelled abroad and brought back those diseases."

But Dr. Eric Kodish, who specializes in pediatric ethics and oncology at the Cleveland Clinic, said there is significant evidence that legislating vaccines leads to real results.

"The combination of good law and good policy with face-to-face interactions with pediatricians will have an effect," he said.

The legislation aims to increase immunization rates in regions that have seen a sharp drop. Though California's overall vaccination rates are stable, some suburban pockets of the state have vaccination rates hovering near 50 percent. This poses major problems for what immunologists call "herd immunity," or the percentage at which enough people are vaccinated to protect the community as a whole. Herd immunity for measles is between 92 and 94 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Still, parents opposed to the bill are holding firm. They have said that the measure infringes upon informed consent and violates equal access to education. Some have even vowed to take legal action, though the issue has previously been upheld in court.

"I will sue to put my child in school," said Jude Tovatt of Roseville and the parent of an 8-year-old child. "I will not run from the state that is our home."

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Experts: California vaccine bill would prevent new outbreaks
Opponents of a measure requiring nearly all California school children to be vaccinated gathered on the west steps of the Capitol after lawmakers approved the bill, in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, June 25, 2015. The bill, SB277 co-authored by state Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento and Ben Allen D-Santa Monica was approved by the Assembly. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
FILE - In this Jan. 29, 2015, file photo, pediatrician Dr. Charles Goodman vaccinates 1 year- old Cameron Fierro with the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, or MMR vaccine at his practice in Northridge, Calif. California's Assembly on Thursday, June 25, 2015, approved a hotly contested bill requiring that nearly all public schoolchildren be vaccinated, clearing one of its last major legislative obstacles before the measure heads to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown. The bill aims to increase immunization rates after a measles outbreak linked to Disneyland in December sickened over 100 people in the U.S. and Mexico. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
Carl Krawitt, left, a supporter of a measure requiring nearly all of California school children to be vaccinated, answers a question during news conference at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, April 15, 2015. Krawitt's said he had worried about son Rhett, 7, center, who was unable to be vaccinated while receiving treatment for leukemia. At right is Assemblyman Marc Levine,B-San Rafeal, a supporter of the measure and whose district the Krawitts live. The state Assembly is expected to vote on the bill, Thursday. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Opponents of a measure requiring nearly all California school children to be vaccinated gathered on the west steps of the Capitol after lawmakers approved the bill, in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, June 25, 2015. The bill, SB277 co-authored by state Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento and Ben Allen D-Santa Monica was approved by the Assembly. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
FILE - In this June 9, 2015, file photo, Karman Willmer, left, and Shelby Messenger rally against SB 277, a California measure requiring schoolchildren to get vaccinated, outside the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. California's Assembly on Thursday, June 25, 2015, approved a hotly contested bill requiring that nearly all public schoolchildren be vaccinated, clearing one of its last major legislative obstacles before the measure heads to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown. The bill aims to increase immunization rates after a measles outbreak linked to Disneyland in December sickened over 100 people in the U.S. and Mexico. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
Barbara Loe Fisher, center, founder of the National Vaccine Information Center, speaks against SB277, a measure requiring California schoolchildren to get vaccinated, at a Capitol rally, Tuesday, June 9, 2015, in Sacramento, Calif. The bill, sponsored by Democratic Sens. Richard Pan of Sacramento and Ben Allen of Santa Monica, would only allow children with serious health problems to opt out of school-mandated vaccinations. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
People protest SB277, a measure requiring California schoolchildren to get vaccinated, at a Capitol rally, Tuesday, June 9, 2015, in Sacramento, Calif. The bill, sponsored by Democratic Sens. Richard Pan of Sacramento and Ben Allen of Santa Monica, would only allow children with serious health problems to opt out of school-mandated vaccinations. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
A sign expressing opposition to SB277, a measure that will require California schoolchildren to get vaccinated, is displayed as lawmakers discuss the bill at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. Wednesday, April 22, 2015. The bill by Sens. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, and Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, was approved by the Senate Education Committee on a 7-2 vote after the authors made amendments that allows families who chose to not vaccinate to homeschool children together and allows independent study. The bill now goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, discusses the measure he and Sen. Ben Allen, co-authored requiring California schoolchildren to get vaccinated, while appearing before the Assembly Health Committee at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, June 9, 2015. The bill would only allow children with serious health problems to opt out of school-mandated vaccinations. School-age children who remain unvaccinated would need to be homeschooled. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
FILE - In this April 8, 2015 file photo, protesters rally against a measure requiring California schoolchildren to get vaccinated at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. Senate Bill 277, a California bill that would sharply limit vaccination waivers after a Disneyland measles outbreak, has generated such an acidic debate that Sen. Richard Pan, the proposal's author, was under added security this week. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file)
Nikki Craven from Grass Valley joins protestors during a rally in opposition to SB277 at the Capitol on Tuesday, April 28, 2015, in Sacramento, Calif. A third panel of state senators has passed a bill mandating that California schoolchildren be vaccinated in an effort to combat recent outbreaks of measles and whooping cough. (AP Photo/Steve Yeater)
Rhett Krawitt, 6, who could not be vaccinated while he was being treated for leukemia, speaks to lawmakers about approval of a measure requiring California schoolchildren to be vaccinated during a hearing of the Senate Education Committee, Wednesday, April 15, 2015, in Sacramento, Calif. The bill authors, Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, agreed to postpone a vote until next week after lawmakers expressed concerns. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Robert Kennedy, Jr. the nephew of President John F. Kennedy and son of former U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, spoke against a measure requiring California schoolchildren to get vaccinated, during a rally at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, April 8, 2015. The bill SB277 by Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica will be heard by the California Senate Health committee Wednesday. If approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor, parents could no longer cite personal beliefs or religious reasons to send unvaccinated children to private and public schools unless a child’s health is in danger. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Kelly Trutter, back to camera, joined others protesting against a measure requiring California schoolchildren to get vaccinated, at a Capitol rally in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, April 8, 2015. The bill SB277 by Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, will be heard by the California Senate Health committee Wednesday. If approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor, parents could no longer cite personal beliefs or religious reasons to send unvaccinated children to private and public schools unless a child’s health is in danger. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
FILE - In this Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015 file photo, a pediatrician holds a dose of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine at his practice in Northridge, Calif. A new study published in the journal Science suggests the measles vaccine not only prevents measles, but may also help the body ward off other infections. The vaccine was in the spotlight this year after a large measles outbreak linked to Disneyland sickened people in the U.S., Mexico and Canada. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 28: Miami Children's Hospital pediatrician Dr. Amanda Porro, M.D administers a measles vaccination to Sophie Barquin,4, as her mother Gabrielle Barquin and Miami Children's Hospital R.N. Diane Lichtman (R) hold her during a visit to the Miami Children's Hospital on January 28, 2015 in Miami, Florida. A recent outbreak of measles has some doctors encouraging vaccination as the best way to prevent measles and its spread. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A stuffed bear is displayed during a rally against SB277, a measure requiring California schoolchildren to get vaccinated, Tuesday, June 9, 2015, at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. The bill, sponsored by Democratic Sens. Richard Pan of Sacramento and Ben Allen of Santa Monica, would only allow children with serious health problems to opt out of school-mandated vaccinations. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Protestors opposed to the mandatory vaccination bill SB277 rally outside of the Capitol before a Senate hearing on the bill on Tuesday, April 28, 2015 in Sacramento, Calif. A third panel of state senators has passed a bill mandating that California schoolchildren be vaccinated in an effort to combat recent outbreaks of measles and whooping cough. (AP Photo/Steve Yeater)
FILE - In this April 8, 2015 file photo, protestors stage a rally at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. against Senate Bill 277 which limits inoculation waivers. While most opponents have been respectful of the legislative process, some have depicted one of the bill's authors as Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and left them threatening messages. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Zach Bingham, 6, sits among protest signs at against a measure requiring California schoolchildren to get vaccinated at a Capitol rally in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, April 8, 2015. The bill SB277 by Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, will be heard by the California Senate Health committee Wednesday. If approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor, parents could no longer cite personal beliefs or religious reasons to send unvaccinated children to private and public schools unless a child’s health is in danger.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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Other parents cheered the legislative vote and immediately turned their attention to swaying Brown.

"I know that he is very pro-science and that's really what this bill comes down to: leadership in public health, and supporting evidence-based science," said Hannah Henry, mother of four from Napa who started Vaccinate California, a parental group in support of the bill. "That's where I'm expecting him to sign this bill."

Although the bill passed the Senate and the Assembly with bipartisan support, it did not pass with a two-thirds threshold that would be needed to override a governor's veto.

The Senate voted Monday on changes made to the bill in the Assembly that make it easier to obtain medical exemptions. The amendment would allow doctors to use a family's medical history as an evaluating factor.

The bill authors also agreed to establish a grandfather clause, allowing students who currently claim a personal belief exemption to maintain it until their next vaccine checkpoint.

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