Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 9 signed two vaccination bills that Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, and Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, authored to strengthen the state’s childhood vaccination law. Pan represents Elk Grove in the State Senate’s District 6.
That law was established through the controversial Senate Bill (SB) 277, which was co-authored by Pan, and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2015.
The bill, which was introduced after a measles outbreak at Disneyland in 2014, was intended to keep schoolchildren safe from contagious diseases through mandatory immunizations for most California schoolchildren.
With the bill’s removal of the personal belief exemption, anti-vaccination proponents claimed that the law violated their personal freedoms when it came to whether their schoolchildren should receive vaccines.
A referendum to repeal SB 277 failed to qualify for the November 2016 election, as it received 233,758 of the 365,880 required signatures.
While eliminating personal belief exemptions, the childhood immunization law maintained exemptions for medical reasons.
Through the recently passed Senate Bill 276, Pan aimed at preventing false medical exemptions and requiring oversight of the medial exemption process.
This new law requires physicians to examine patients in person and provide the California Department of Public Health with their name, license number and their reasoning for the exemption.
The department will then evaluate whether the reason for the exemption meets guidelines of the Center for the Disease Control.
In the event that any medical exemptions are found to be fraudulent or inconsistent with standard care, the Department of Public Health will be authorized to revoke such exemptions.
The department will create and maintain a database of all medical exemptions.
Gonzalez mentioned why she favored SB 276.
“Since we passed SB 277 in 2015, we have seen a few doctors get around the law by loosely issuing medical exemptions when families are willing to pay,” she said. “The science is clear that vaccines work. SB 276 is critical to protecting those children who truly need medical exemptions.”
As a companion bill to Senate Bill 276, the approved SB 714 authorizes changes, including permitting “a child with a medical exemption obtained prior to Jan. 1, 2020 to “be allowed to continue enrollment until the child enrolls in the next grade span.”
Pan expressed appreciation for Newsom’s signing of these bills.
“I thank the governor for standing with science, and once again making California a leader in safeguarding children and communities from diseases that threaten our public health,” he said.
“It is my hope that parents whose vulnerable children could die from vaccine-preventable diseases will be reassured that we are protecting those communities that have been left vulnerable because a few unscrupulous doctors are undermining community immunity by selling inappropriate medical exemptions.”
With the controversy surrounding these bills, hundreds of protestors arrived at the state Capitol to express their disapproval. Their demonstration included chanting that could be heard in the legislative chambers.
Protestors blocked entrances to the building, which resulted in several arrests.
Among the organizations that opposed Pan’s vaccination bills was the Newport Beach-based Physicians for Informed Consent (PIC), an organization that is opposed to mandatory vaccinations, but is not an anti-vaccination group.
Greg Glaser, general counsel for PIC, responded to the signing of SB 276 and SB 714 into law.
“SB 276 and SB 714 doubles down on mandatory vaccinations, targeting medically fragile children,” he said. “These Orwellian bills are unprecedented in California as the government plays Big Brother over medical records.”