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California Vaccine Bill Clears Major Legislative Hurdle

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

The bill would eliminate the personal belief exemption for parents who do not want their children to be vaccinated. It would still allow for a medical exemption.

Democratic Assembly member Shirley Weber says vaccines should not be taken for granted. Weber, who is nearly 67, says her generation experienced illnesses like polio and no one questioned it when they were told to get vaccinated.

"We understand it beyond the intellectual level, beyond the legislative level, we understand it on the personal level," she said. "And so I challenge you today to once again understand that we can take these positions, why? Because we have vaccinations."

Republican Assembly member Beth Gaines says there’s no doubt the medical profession has made great progress when it comes to vaccines. But she says there are still risks. And Gaines says she’s had experience with a child having an adverse reaction to a shot.

"As a parent it should be my choice in discussing with my doctor about my children’s’ personal medical choices without the interference of the government," she said.

The vote didn’t fall entirely along party lines. Republican Assembly member Young Kim supported the measure. She says the bill is personal for her because of her daughter’s experience with a brain tumor.

"During her health battles those with personal belief exemptions could have exposed her to potentially deadly or debilitating virus," she said.

But Democrat Assembly member Ken Cooley says the bill deprives unvaccinated kids of a proper education.  

"We are taking a group of kids who are not yet symptomatic, for whom some parent has a deep apprehension in their heart, and saying you’re not going to get access to this public education system in California," he said.

The measure passed 46 to 30. It will now return to the Senate so the chamber can approve amendments made in the Assembly. If the Senate approves the changes, the measure will then go to the governor’s desk for his signature.



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