New bill in California would require parents to vaccinate their children

Five California state senators want to eliminate waivers that allow parents to opt their children out of vaccinations for personal or religious beliefs, arguing such a step could have prevented the state’s recent measles outbreak.  

The lawmakers announced their bill late Wednesday, which would require all children to be vaccinated before attending public school, unless they have a medical condition that prevents it. Schools would also be required to make their vaccination rates public.

California’s Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown appears open to the legislation. His spokesman, Evan Westrup, told the Los Angeles Times that he "believes that vaccinations are profoundly important and a major public health benefit, and any bill that reaches his desk will be closely considered."

California has been the worst hit in the country’s 14-state measles outbreak this year. Nearly 100 cases of the measles have been reported in California in the last two months — more than the entire country sees in a typical year.

Sens. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerHillicon Valley: Ocasio-Cortez clashes with former Dem senator over gig worker bill | Software engineer indicted over Capital One breach | Lawmakers push Amazon to remove unsafe products Ocasio-Cortez blasts former Dem senator for helping Lyft fight gig worker bill Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates MORE (D-Calif.) and Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) also raised alarms about the vaccine waivers on Wednesday, penning a letter to the state's health department urging it to strengthen the state's requirements.

"We think that under your leadership, California can change this practice and reassure families that all children are safe at schools, daycare centers, and in other public places," they wrote.

California state Sen. Richard Pan (D), a pediatrician turned state lawmaker, said at a briefing Wednesday that “not enough people being vaccinated” to contain diseases like the measles. He added that the anti-vaccine movement is creating new fears among parents who do vaccinate their children.

"As a pediatrician I have personally witnessed children suffering lifelong injury or death from vaccine-preventable infection," Pan wrote in a statement.

In some parts of California, as many as 10 percent of school children are unvaccinated because of the “personal belief” exemption.

The state already requires parents to consult with a doctor before seeking a “personal belief” exemption — a measure spearheaded by Pan. The law went into effect in January 2014 and has already led to a 20 percent drop in exemptions among kindergartners, the state senator said.