Vaccines by Law in CA: What Parents Should Know & Can Do

March 7, 2016
Leslie Dixon

Vaccines by Law in CA: What Parents Should Know & Can DoIn California, Governor Jerry Brown has passed a law that mandates every child entering school to be up-to-date with current CDC vaccinations. The law will become effective July 1, 2016, and will impact any child entering school in the fall of 2016. I’m addressing this issue because I feel it’s important for parents to be informed so that they can take an active part in their children’s health and welfare.

I agree that it’s important to protect young people and society from any life threatening diseases. The CDC, the public health department and drug companies have all worked hard to come up with solutions to potentially life-threatening diseases, and their efforts appeared to have paid off. Until recently we’d seen very few cases of diseases considered “eradicated” in the U.S., such as measles, chicken pox, Pertussis (whooping cough), etc. So why have we started to see them reappearing?

Up until Gov. Brown signed a bill mandating that all children entering Kindergarten in California be totally up-to-date with the CDC’s vaccine recommendation, parents had a variety of options regarding vaccinating their children. Probably the most popular model was the one advocated by Dr. Sears, versus simply following the CDC recommendations. Now parents’ options are limited, if they want to enroll their children in school or take advantage of other state-funded services in California.

Many parents I’ve spoken to are confused and somewhat upset about this. A lot of these parents made a conscious decision to immunize their children, but adhered to a more relaxed schedule or selection of vaccines than have been suggested by the CDC. Under this new law that won’t be an option, which has led to some feeling like they’ve lost control when making parenting choices.

Here’s a quick overview for anyone who may not be clear about what Senate Bill 277 encompasses…

  • This bill eliminates exemption from existing specified immunizations required based upon personal beliefs, but would allow exemption from future requirements deemed appropriate by the State Department of Public Health for either medical reasons or personal beliefs.
  • The bill would exempt pupils in a home-based private school and students in independent study program.
  • The only remaining exceptions apply to students enrolled in home-based private school or independent study.
  • Pupils who meet the requirements for exception to the new immunization law who submit an affidavit or had a letter on file before January 1, 2016, will have been allowed to enroll in school until the next grade span. After January 1, 2016, all children who had not submitted the necessary affidavit or letter are required to comply with the CDC’s recommended schedule of immunizations.
  • A doctor’s letter for a medical exemption would be required for admission to public or private school.
  • The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the American Academy of Pediatrics and The American Academy of Family Physicians can add other immunizations to the bill as they deem appropriate.
  • Starting in 2016, exemptions for religious or other personal beliefs will no longer be an option for the vaccines that are currently required for entry into school or childcare in California.

(Here’s a Link to a Q & A on the bill, if you’d like more info.)

There are parents who are comfortable accepting anything the medical profession and media offer as the gospel to raising children. But with access to all the information on the Internet, more and more parents are becoming better-informed advocates for themselves as parents and for their children. When I receive a request for information concerning potentially sensitive topics such as vaccination, it is my policy to instruct parents to do their due diligence and gather all the information they need to make wise choices.

In the case of California vaccinations after December 31st, 2015, the law is quite specific, so I invite parents to take a moment to become familiar with the bill and seek help if they have any questions or concerns. Talk to your school district and your pediatrician to understand what will be required for your children, what options you have, and when you’ll need to be compliant with the new law.

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