On Thursday, California’s Assembly Health Committee passed legislation that will limit vaccination exemptions in the state’s public and private schools. Senate Bill 276 passed 9-2, despite complaints from anti-vaxxers and Jessica Biel, who explained in a long Instagram post that she’s “not against vaccinations,” but doesn’t support the bill for personal reasons.
“My concern…is solely regarding medical exemptions,” Biel wrote. “My dearest friends have a child with a medical condition that warrants an exemption from vaccinations, and should this bill pass, it would greatly affect their family’s ability to care for their child in this state.”
Currently, California requires all children entering the state’s schools and daycare programs be up to date with their vaccinations unless a physician grants them an exemption. As both the anti-vaccine movement and previously eliminated diseases continue to spread across the U.S., parents are finding doctors willing to write unnecessary notes of exemption, which the bill addresses.
Under SB-276, doctors can still exempt children from vaccinations — but there’s more fine print. The California Department of Health will thoroughly review these medical exemptions, particularly from doctors who declare more than five a year. Students with allergies or impaired immunity will still be granted exemptions, but others will have to comply with the state’s immunization regulations. This is important right now, as measles outbreaks in the U.S. are reaching a 25-year high.
Sacramento Sen. Richard Pan introduced the bill back in March. “California cannot allow a handful of unscrupulous physicians to put our children in danger,” he told the Assembly Health Committee.
The measure will now go to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, and Gov. Gavin Newsom has already said he would sign the bill.
Biel may disagree, but celebrities including Kristen Bell and her husband, actor Dax Shepard, have voiced their support for the legislation.
#Sb276 will ensure communities in CA are safe from vaccine-preventable disease. I want my kids and your kids to be safe and healthy at school. Let’s stop outbreaks and support science based public health policy. Join me at https://t.co/tOexnaMvzz to make your voice heard too.3/3— Kristen Bell (@IMKristenBell) June 20, 2019
“I would have a hard time keeping my opinion to myself if someone was telling me their 8 month-old did not need a car seat,” Shepard wrote on Twitter. “The same hard time I’m having currently with anti-vaxxers.”