California lawmakers advanced tougher rules for vaccinations late Wednesday after hearing hours of testimony from hundreds of opponents while the nation grapples with the highest number of measles cases in decades.
The Senate Health Committee approved the proposal to give state public health officials instead of local doctors the power to decide which children can skip their shots before attending school. The push coincides with this year’s national measles tally reaching the highest it’s been since 1994, according to an Associated Press count.
Lawmakers decided stronger oversight is needed to stem bogus exemptions granted in many cases by doctors who are paid to excuse students from vaccinations.
They acted despite more than three hours of often emotional opposition from parents and some children, and after spending another hour debating where to draw the line between individual rights and public safety.
Democratic Sen. Richard Pan of Sacramento said his legislation would give state health officials the tools they need to prevent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, which in the first four months of the year have reached 28 confirmed cases in California.
With files from the AP
AirTalk contacted the bill’s sponsor, Senator Richard Pan, to request an interview but he was not available at the time we requested.
Jacques Corriveau, M.D., pediatric hospitalist in Antioch, CA and senior chair of the State Government Affairs Committee at the American Academy of Pediatrics -- California, a co-sponsor of SB 276; he tweets @pedsdocjacques