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Measles Vaccination Bill Co-Authored by Santa Monica  Legislator Passed by Senate

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By Lookout Staff

May 15, 2015 -- Controversial legislation co-authored by Santa Monica State Sen. Ben Allen to require vaccinations of school children against diseases like the measles was approved Thursday by the California State Senate.

Senators voted 25 to 10 in favor of SB 277, which would eliminate parents’ right to “opt out” of getting their children vaccinated before entering school due to religious or personal objections.

The bill, also authored by Dr. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, now heads to the Assembly. It also needs the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown to become law. If adopted, the law would make California the 32nd state to ban the personal belief exemption and only the third state to ban the religious exemption.

Waivers would only be available for children with health problems.  Parents who decide not to vaccinate would be left to homeschool children, although modified language would allow parents to join together in groups to provide homeschooling. Some public school independent study also would be allowed..

SB 277 is meant to help prevent more measles outbreaks like the one that started in December of last year at Disneyland before spreading to several states. In all, 169 people in 20 states fell sick, including 131 in California.

Two highly publicized cases occurred in Santa Monica. One involved a high school baseball coach and the other an infant at the Santa Monica High School child care center. The center was temporarily closed.

It was revealed during the California outbreak that affluent pockets of the state, including Santa Monica and Malibu, tended to have higher numbers of students who were not vaccinated because their parents had received personal exemptions.

In fact, several public schools in the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District had vaccination rates that were below the rates experts view as necessary to protect against outbreaks.

California’s outbreak – one of five nationwide -- was declared over April 17.

Opponents of the bill have filled hearing rooms while SB 277 made its way through the senate, and the sessions often ended up emotional and contentious. Those parents argue that the state has no right to force such a requirement. Many contend that the vaccinations can cause autism.

KPCC reported that at Thursday’s session, Sen. Joel  Anderson, R-Alpine, questioned why the bill was removing the religious exemption to vaccinations. He asked, "why is it that a religious exemption is so scary to this Senate body?"

Allen said he called several religious leaders and asked if they had concerns about vaccinations.

"I was consistently told that the Catholic Church does not have an opposition to vaccinations," Allen said.

"In fact, many Catholic priests are working very hard in other parts of the world to vaccinate children and people to protect them from dangerous communicable diseases, as a matter of faith for them, because they care so much about the sanctity of life and the preservation of human health."

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