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Vaccine Debate Returns To California Capitol

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

One year after a debate over vaccinating public school children reverberated through California Legislature, a new proposal would protect doctors from discipline or liability for issuing students medical exemptions.

California law now requires all public and private school students to be fully immunized – unless they get a doctor’s medical exemption.

Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) opposed last year’s bill for constitutional reasons. He says given the toxicity of that debate, it’s important to protect physicians from discipline and liability.

“Whenever you have doctors feeling like they can’t exercise their judgment to do what’s best for their patients, you end up in a circumstance that’s really not good for patients or for medicine,” Gatto says.

Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), who authored last year’s vaccine law, declined to take a position on Gatto’s bill but expressed concern.

“There’s always the possibility that there will be some physicians who may take advantage of the privileges that their license grants them and abuse that privilege,” Pan says.

The bill will get its first hearing this spring.

 vaccines

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio