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Gov. Brown signs bill making it harder for parents to get vaccination exemptions for their kids

A nurse fills a syringe with H1N1 vaccine during a drive thru H1N1 vaccination clinic at Doctor's Medical Center Nov. 5, 2009 in San Pablo, California.
A nurse fills a syringe with H1N1 vaccine during a drive thru H1N1 vaccination clinic at Doctor's Medical Center Nov. 5, 2009 in San Pablo, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Sunday that requires parents who don’t want their kids to receive immunizations to talk with a licensed health care practitioner about the impact of not getting vaccinations on the family and community.

The bill was written by state Assemblyman Dr. Richard Pan.

“As a pediatrician, I have personally witnessed children suffering life-long injury and death from vaccine-preventable infection,” Pan said in a press release. “When the contagion spreads in communities with immunization rates below 90 percent, not only those who choose to be unimmunized are infected, but also people who cannot be immunized including young infants, cancer patients on chemotherapy, AIDS patients, and people with vaccine allergies.”

There are many communities across the state where more than 10 percent of parents use California’s personal belief exemption to keep their kids from getting vaccinated, according to Pan's release.

Opponents of the bill said they support making informed decisions when it comes to whether to vaccinate children, but that the requirement for in-person vaccine counseling is too burdensome.

Barbara Loe Fisher of the National Vaccine Information Center said there was no need for a new law for parents to get vaccine information, saying that the information could be posted online and parents could sign to say that they’d reviewed the information.

“But to force them to pay for a doctor’s visit and face hostile doctors is not right,” Fisher said. She also said that the bill leaves open the possibility of a doctor refusing to sign the opt-out form, so parents could be forced into visiting — and paying for — several doctors to get permission.

California is now the second state with such a law, joining Washington state. Washington officials announced that 25 percent fewer parents decided to exempt their kids from vaccines after talking to a health practitioner, according to Pan's release.

The law will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

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