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Controversial Vaccine Requirement Bill Clears First Senate Committee

Pauline Bartolone / Capital Public Radio

Crowds pack an April 2015 committee hearing at the California state Capitol as lawmakers debate a bill to require that all public and private school students be vaccinated.

Pauline Bartolone / Capital Public Radio

Hundreds of people crowded at the state Capitol building Wednesday to speak up about whether or not parents' personal beliefs could justify refusal to vaccinate their children. A Senate committee voted to eliminate the 'personal belief exemption.'

The measure would require all kids who attend school in California to be vaccinated, unless they have a medical condition that justifies an exemption. It would also require schools to report immunization rates to parents. Democratic Senator Richard Pan is carrying the bill.

"SB277 does not mandate vaccinations," says Pan. "But that choice requires responsibility, and we have the responsibility to protect all children that go to school by requiring vaccination when children go attend school with other children."

But at a large rally to keep the personal belief option, the focus was on individual rights. Kids held signs that said things like "Force my veggies, not my vaccines." People wore American flags and parents spoke about the freedom to make choices for their kids welfare.  Lisa Cadrein came up from Los Angeles. She says her daughter has sensitivies and she is afraid vaccines would do neurological harm. 

"I am afraid that her big beautiful blue eyes will not focus on me anymore, and she won't be the kid that she is," says Cadrein.

After several hours of debate and public testimony, the Senate Health committee passed the bill 6 to 2. The measure now moves to the Senate Education Committee.