California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomDemocrats lean into vaccine mandates ahead of midterms Republicans caught in California's recall trap Two of Newsom's four children test positive for COVID-19 MORE (D) on Monday signed legislation aimed at cracking down on doctors who fraudulently write medical exemptions to vaccines for school children.
“This legislation provides new tools to better protect public health, and does so in a way that ensures parents, doctors, public health officials and school administrators all know the rules of the road moving forward,” Newsom said in a statement.
Newsom signed the bills less than an hour after lawmakers sent him some changes he demanded, The Associated Press reported.
The initial bill, SB 276, targets fraudulent medical exemptions to mandatory vaccinations for school-age children.
It requires the State Department of Public Health to create a statewide, standardized request system for licensed physicians to use when documenting a medical exemption for a child they have examined.
The department will vet each standardized medical exemption form filled out by physicians and create a database of which doctors are granting the exemptions.
The push was co-sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the California Medical Association and the advocacy group Vaccinate California, according to AP.
Newsom called for a phase-out period as a condition of approving the bill.
The bill will now allow a child who has a medical exemption issued before January 1, 2020, to be allowed to continue enrollment in school until the child enters the next grade span.
State Sen. Richard Pan (D), who introduced the initial legislation back in March, pushed companion bill SB 714 to grant grace periods lasting several years to students who currently have existing medical exemptions.
The additional legislation passed in the Senate 27-11 by roll call and in the Assembly on a 43-14 vote. Republicans object that there were no public committee hearings beforehand, the outlet noted.
Enforcement on the bills will start next year, so doctors who had previously granted a high number of medical exemptions will not be investigated, AP noted.
CBS Sacramento reported that hundreds of protesters were at the state capitol on Monday, blocking entrances and pounding on walls as they called for Newsom to veto the measure.
Six people were arrested for misdemeanor charges of resisting and delaying a peace officer and intentionally obstructing business on nonpublic property, the outlet noted. Two of those arrests stemmed from protesters chaining themselves to capitol entrances.
California has some of the strictest immunization regulations in the country, the Los Angeles Times previously reported. Students are required to be fully vaccinated to attend both public or private schools unless they obtain a physician’s medical exemption.
Only two other states — West Virginia and Mississippi — do not allow parents to seek religious or personal belief vaccine exemptions. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) eliminated personal belief exceptions in 2015.
Ten percent or more of kindergarteners at 105 California schools during the 2017 to 2018 year had medical exemptions, the newspaper reported. Their collective immunity to infectious diseases dropped below the 95 percent threshold necessary to prevent outbreaks of highly contagious illnesses.
Several states have begun to reexamine vaccine exemptions amid a series of measles outbreaks across the country. Some states, such as Arizona, have proposed legislation this year expanding exemptions.