California vaccine exemption bill amended in order to advance

A contentious California vaccination bill has been amended in order to be considered by the Governor. Senate Bill 276, Immunizations: medical exemptions, was amended for the fifth time by the sponsor of the bill, Sen. Richard Pan, on Monday.

The bill is designed to crackdown on the number of vaccine exemptions in the state, and would require the State Department of Public Health to develop and make available for use by licensed physicians and surgeons, an electronic, standardized, statewide, medical exemption request form. The information from these forms would then be uploaded into a database accessible by public health officials to determine which doctors routinely give medical exemptions, and for what reason.

SB 276, in other words, is intended to restrict doctors that administer fake medical exemptions by creating more narrow guidelines for what types of conditions warrant exemptions. The bill is intended to ensure that children who should be immunized receive vaccinations in order to keep the community safe, while granting exemptions to students who truly need them. The form developed by the department creates these narrow guidelines and provides additional oversight over physicians.

This new set of requirements was amended to become effective January 1, 2021. Previously, it would have gone into effect in 2020. 

 

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Although the bill has undergone a series of amendments in the Senate to clarify statutory language and extend the dates of implementation, the most recent amendments follow comments made by Gov. Newsom, and others, suggesting that the law in its current form was too strict. The governor also raised concerns that the bill gave too much power to bureaucrats and politicians to determine when children should, and should not be vaccinated.

“I believe in immunizations… however I do legitimately have concerns about a bureaucrat making a decision that is very personal,” Newsom reported to the Sacramento Bee earlier this month…that’s just something we need to pause and think about.”

The Senator’s new amendments broaden eligibility standards, allowing a larger number of children to qualify for medical exemptions. The amendments also provide a narrower scope for public health officials, limiting the circumstances under which physicians can grant medical exemptions.

Mark Ghaly, secretary of California’s Health and Human Services Agency, in a statement on behalf of Gov. Newsom’s administration stated:

“These amendments ensure this bill protects the doctor-patient relationship, strengthens the state’s ability to target doctors who abuse the medical exemption process and gives state public health officials the tools to identify and protect schools and communities where herd immunity is in danger,” Ghaly said.

The bill is scheduled to be considered in the Assembly today, and a large number of witnesses are anticipated to testify.