California recently adopted what many news reports call one of the strictest
vaccination laws in America by eliminating the religious and personal-belief
Senate Bill 277 was created after a December 2014 measles outbreak –
traced back to Disneyland – infected 150 people, according to the
Los Angeles Times. While every state in the country has vaccination laws, only Mississippi
and West Virginia have laws similar to the new one signed by Gov. Jerry
Brown, who said in a statement that, “The science is clear that
vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious
and dangerous diseases. While it’s true that no medical intervention
is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits
and protects the community.”
The bill had vocal supporters and opponents and the debate over it hasn’t
ended—a proposed statewide referendum that would allow Californians
to vote on the law has been filed with the state attorney general’s office.
In the meantime,
Lisa Hoang, MD, a pediatrician with
St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group in Tustin, tells parents what they need to know about the new law:
- Only medical exemptions from vaccinations will be allowed in schools and
day care facilities. “These types of physician-approved exemptions
include cases where children have a medical condition, such as allergies
or a weak immune system, or a family medical history that prevents them
from being immunized,” Dr. Hoang says. “A doctor’s note
will be required.”
Students must have their shots by July 1, 2016, before the start of the
2016-2017 school year. However, if a student has a personal-belief or
religious exemption on file with the school before Jan. 1, 2016, there
is some wiggle room. “These students can stay in school or day care
unimmunized until they reach kindergarten or seventh grade, at which time
they must comply with the new law in order to attend school. Those are
the grade levels when schools must verify vaccination status,” Dr.
Hoang says. “The Los Angeles Times estimates about 80,000 children have these exemptions already; in kindergarten
alone there are 13,592 children across the state who fall into that category,”
Dr. Hoang says.
- The law does not apply to homeschool or independent study programs.
- Children with individual education plans will still have access to all
appropriate special education services.
- The vaccines that children are required to have before entering school
are unchanged under the new law. “To enter kindergarten, students
must be vaccinated for diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT), measles,
mumps and rubella (MMR), polio, hepatitis B and chickenpox, also known
as varicella,” Dr. Hoang says. “In seventh grade, students
must have the MMR and Tdap, which is tetanus, reduced diphtheria and acellular
“If parents have any concerns or questions, they should talk with
their pediatrician,” Dr. Hoang says.
For more information about St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group, click
here. For more information about Dr. Hoang, click
The 4-1-1 on Childhood Vaccines
What You Need to Know About Measles and Vaccination
Measles Outbreak: What You Need to Know
What do you think about the new law? Leave your comments here.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.