California Governor Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed a bill eliminating the state’s personal beliefs exemption for school vaccine requirements – legislation that was prompted by a measles outbreak at Disneyland linked to low vaccination rates.
The new law, which makes California only the third state to eliminate religious and other personal vaccine exemptions, generated vociferous opposition from some parents, many of them fearing what scientists say is a debunked link between childhood vaccinations and autism.
“The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases,” Brown wrote in his signing message. “While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.”
In December, more than 100 people were sickened in a measles outbreak traced to the Disneyland theme park in Southern California. Epidemiologists later said that the outbreak was linked to vaccination rates, which have dropped in parts of the state where parents, many of them liberal and affluent, fear their children will suffer side-effects or develop autism if they comply with recommended vaccine schedules.
California, like other U.S. states, mandated vaccinations for school children decades ago, after it was shown that inoculation could prevent such childhood scourges as polio, pertussis and measles.
But the state allowed parents to opt out of the shots if their personal beliefs – religious or otherwise – led them to question vaccination for their children.
The new law does allow parents to obtain medical waivers from vaccinations for their children.