SACRAMENTO ( — State senators have passed a controversial bill aimed at increasing California’s school immunization rates.

The bill approved Thursday would prohibit parents from seeking vaccine exemptions for their children because of religious or personal beliefs.

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SB277 by Democratic senators Ben Allen of Santa Monica and Richard Pan of Sacramento would make medical waivers available only for children who have health problems, forcing unvaccinated children to be homeschooled.

California would join Mississippi and West Virginia as the only states with such strict requirements if the bill becomes law.

Red-shirted opponents, some with fussy children, crowded the public gallery to watch the nearly hour-long Senate debate.

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Senators approved the measure on a 25-10 vote, sending it to the Assembly. Gov. Jerry Brown has not taken a position on the bill.

Southland parents and other protesters gathered earlier this week in downtown Los Angeles to rally against the bill, with some parents saying they believe the data on vaccine safety is anything but conclusive.

“Our approach to vaccination is it’s ‘one size fits all’, but we all have different genetic makeup,” said protester Alan Hysinger. “We all have different abilities to accept and withstand the toxins that are inherent in vaccines.”

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