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California governor signs strict school vaccine legislation

While medical exemptions will still be granted, other unvaccinated children will need to be home-schooled

California’s Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed a contentious bill on Tuesday to impose one of the strictest school vaccination laws in the country. He issued a statement saying science clearly shows vaccines dramatically protect children against infectious diseases.

The bill strikes California's personal belief exemption for immunizations, requiring nearly all public school children to be vaccinated. While medical exemptions will still be granted to children with serious health issues, other unvaccinated children will need to be home-schooled.

The measure applies to public and private schools, as well as day care facilities. The school vaccine issue has sparked one of the most heated legislative debates of the year, with thousands of parents taking to social media and flooding the Capitol in recent weeks to protest. 

The legislation, SB 277, was introduced after an outbreak of measles at Disneyland in December infected more than 100 people in the United States and Mexico.

California — the most populous state in the U.S. — joins Mississippi and West Virginia as the only states with such strict requirements.

The law will likely be successful in increasing immunization rates and stopping the spread of disease, pediatric doctors said Monday after the state Senate sent the legislation to Brown.

“Historically, we know that attaching requirements for school entry to vaccination has been one of the most successful ways to increase immunization rates,” said Dr. Douglas Opel, a professor at the University of Washington who specializes in pediatric bioethics.

Under the new law, children without a medical exemption will have to be home-schooled or be fully vaccinated by kindergarten and seventh grade, the state's two vaccine checkpoints. A grandfather clause allows students currently claiming a personal belief exemption to maintain it until their next vaccine checkpoint.

The Associated Press

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