SACRAMENTO (CBSLA/AP) – The California Legislature could vote as soon as Monday on a controversial bill which would limit school vaccination exemptions for students.
Last week, the legislature passed Senate Bill 276, which would punish doctors who sell fraudulent medical exemptions. That bill awaits the signature of Gov. Gavin Newsom
However, at the last-minute, Newsom asked for the legislature to take up amendments to a companion bill, SB 714. On Friday, Newsom and state Sen. Richard Pan, author of both bills, reached a deal in which Newsom would sign SB 276 if Pan agrees to Newsom’s amendments to SB 714.
The amendments to SB 714 would give schoolchildren grace periods that could last several years on existing medical exemptions. For instance, a kindergartner with an exemption could retain it through 6th grade, while a 7th grader could be exempted through high school. That is similar to the phase-out period allowed when California eliminated personal belief vaccine exemptions in 2015, officials said.
Another new provision would revoke any medical exemptions written by Robert Sears, a prominent Capistrano Beach physician who has been disciplined by the Medical Board of California for writing an improper vaccine exemption.
The provision would apply to exemptions written by any doctor who has faced disciplinary action, but at this time, Sears is the only California doctor to be disciplined regarding vaccine exemptions.
Other changes would make it clear that enforcement will start next year, meaning doctors who previously granted a high number of medical exemptions won’t face scrutiny.
They also would remove a requirement that doctors swear under penalty of perjury that they are not charging fees to fill out medical exemption forms.
A Newsom spokesman said the governor would sign SB 276 once the new amendments have also won legislative approval.
American Academy of Pediatrics, California, chief executive Kris Calvin and Vaccinate California executive director Leah Russin both praised Newsom and Pan for working out their differences.
Russin called the agreement “a victory for science over fear and for sound public health policy over conspiracy and misinformation,” while also urging Newsom to immediately sign the bill already on his desk.
Calvin said her group supports the amendments if it means both bills become law.
“We are perfectly satisfied that this bill will satisfy its objective of making sure that bogus medical exemptions are uncovered … while protecting valid medical exemptions,” Calvin said.
In June of 2015, California passed a law which requires that all school children be vaccinated. It came after a measles outbreak at Disneyland which infected more than 100 people.
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