Santa Monica Lookout
|Measles Legislation by Santa Monica Lawmaker Clears Hurdle|
By Niki Cervantes
April 23, 2015 -- A controversial bill co-authored by State Senator Ben Allen from Santa Monica that would prohibit most parents from opting out of vaccinations for the measles and other contagious diseases cleared a key hurdle Wednesday.
After being stalled for a week by parents protesting the imposed vaccinations, SB 277 was passed on a vote of 7 to 2 by the Senate Education Committee with some amendments to its language.
The bill, co-sponsored by Senator Richard Pan of Sacramento, was amended to allow parents to home school their children in groups if they opt out of the vaccinations. It will also allow students seeking independent study to do so using a public school independent study program that is administered by local educators.
Otherwise, the vaccinations can be exempted only in a medical emergency.
The new language was meant to appease the anti-vaccination parents who showed up in large numbers to protest at the bill’s first hearing before the Health Committee and against last week before the Senate Education Commission.
Allen said that the amendments, presented by Pan, protect the rights of students to be safe at school while “preserving every student’s right to an education.”
“Today’s amendments reflect our commitment to increase everyone’s safety against vaccine-preventable diseases while ensuring every child has a place to learn,” Allen said.
The proposed bill now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee for a hearing on April 28. After that, it goes before Senate Appropriates and then, if approved, moves on to the senate floor. It must also make it through the Assembly before going to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature.
The legislation was prompted by the measles outbreak that started at Disneyland in December before spreading to 18 other states. The California outbreak infected 131 people, including a freshman baseball coach at Santa Monica High School and an infant at a daycare center at Santa Monica High School. The daycare center was temporarily closed.
On Friday, California health authorities officially declared the outbreak over.
Medical authorities say it is important that as many people as possible receive vaccinations in order to protect those who are +too young or too ill to vaccinated thereby at risk – something known as “herd immunity.”
A vaccination rate of 90 to 95 percent for schools is recommended. But few Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District schools meet the rate and some fall far short. At the Santa Monica Alternative Schoolhouse (SMASH), for example, only 40 percent of the students are vaccinated, the lowest rate among schools in the City.
A long list of health authorities and educators support the vaccination legislation, which repeals the rights of parents to use the “personal choice” exemption so they don’t need to vaccinate their children before entering them in school.
A vocal group of parents opposes the vaccinations, contending they are not safe for everyone, can be linked to such impairments as autism and are an abuse of the state’s power to require the vaccinations.
There was sympathy on the committee for that point of view.
“In terms of public health it’s necessary, but I am concerned about the rights of our parents,” Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge) said Wednesday, according to the Orange County Register. “This bill does have a long way to go.”
If SB 277 becomes law, California would join 32 other states that don’t allow parents to opt out of vaccination requirements using a personal belief exemption.
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