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Vaccines: California Governor Signs Bill Eliminating Most Exemptions

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California became the third state to allow opt-outs from school vaccine requirements only for medical reasons, after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a controversial piece of legislation eliminating the state's so-called "personal beliefs" exemption Tuesday.

Lawmakers who supported the legislation, including co-sponsor Sen. Richard Pan, a pediatrician and a Democrat, had tried several times to toughen the state's vaccine requirements. Their efforts were strengthened recently after a measles outbreak linked to Disneyland. Just two other states, West Virginia and Mississippi, have such restrictive vaccine policies.

"The science is clear that vaccinations dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases," Brown wrote in a signing message. "While it's true that no medical intervention is without risks, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community."

As I've written previously, public health experts have criticized broad philosophical exemptions, saying families often use them to opt out of vaccines for unscientific reasons or for reasons of convenience. 

Opponents of the measure said it restricts parental rights.

"This bill was an unjustified intrusion into the rights of parents to raise and nurture their children the way they see fit," said Assemblyman Chad Mayes, a Republican who voted no on the bill. "Our public school system should never be used as a tool of coercion."

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