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Vaccine Bill Clears Key Senate Committee

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, talks with Sen. Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster, after she voted against his measure requiring California schoolchildren to get vaccinated, at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. Wednesday, April 22, 2015.

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

A bill intended to bring up vaccination rates among schoolchildren in California has passed an important committee test. 

The proposal to eliminate the personal belief exemption to vaccinations has motivated hundreds of protesters at California's Capitol for the past couple of weeks.

Jean Keese with the California Coalition for Health Choice says the passage of the bill by the Senate Education Committee will only strengthen the opposition.

"This type of overreaching legislation essentially activates people to take action," she says. "And when the state is trying to take a way a parent's right to make medical decisions about their children, that is wrong."

But doctors say the bill is a step to protect public health. Jennifer Wonnacott applauds the bill's movement. She says she canceled trips during the measles outbreak to prevent infection of her infant son.

"I want to see our schools rates continue to be high so we don't have to worry about our immunity levels dropping too low," says Wonnacott.

The bill has been amended to allow parents in homeschooling groups and parents of students in independent study to opt out of vaccinations. The bill moves next to Senate Judiciary Committee, which is expected to raise questions about its constitutionality.

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