Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill giving the state one of the country’s strictest vaccination laws after a winter that saw a major measles outbreak among the unvaccinated.
The new law eliminates the personal belief and religious exemptions the states once granted for school vaccine requirements, meaning only a certified medical issue can be used to avoid vaccination. The law applies to both public and private schools, as well as daycare centers, so the only option for parents who object to vaccinations is to homeschool their children.
Brown described the law as a triumph of science over superstition. Many parents have avoided vaccines, believing they cause autism or other problems, but Brown said evidence overwhelmingly supports the value of vaccines. (RELATED: California Lawmakers Push To End Vaccine Exemptions)
“The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases,” Brown said in a signing statement. “While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.”
Brown’s support is a shift in position from 2012, when he favored maintaining religious exemptions.
With Brown’s signature, California joins West Virginia and Mississippi as the only states that prohibit religious exemptions for vaccinations.
The bill comes in the wake of a measles outbreak last winter that rocked the state. More than 140 people, including 131 Californians, were infected during an outbreak that emanated from Disneyland. The outbreak didn’t just infect those who declined vaccinations, but also infants too young for the vaccine, highlighting the potential danger vaccine dissenters can pose to others.
Anti-vaccine activists, who argue the law tramples on the right of parents to make medical decisions for their children, have promised to challenge the law in court. Kimberly McCauley, a Sacramento mom, told The Associated Press what she expected would happen with her unvaccinated daughter.
“She will go to school,” she said. “And then, when she is denied at kindergarten, I will sue.”
Another activist, Rebecca Estepp of the anti-vaccine group California Coalition for Health Choice, told the Los Angeles Times that the new bill violated the California Constitution’s right to a public education.
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