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Bill To Restrict Vaccine Exemptions Awaits Newsom Signature

California's New Vaccine Bill Heads To The Governor
California's New Vaccine Bill Heads To The Governor
Photo by Sanofi Pasteur via Flickr Creative Commons

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Medical groups and a lawmaker behind California legislation to crack down on vaccine exemptions said Wednesday they were surprised by Gov. Gavin Newsom's last-minute call for changes to the bill, a move that inserted fresh uncertainty into one of the year's most contentious issues.

It was the second time the Democratic governor sought to change the measure aimed at doctors who sell fraudulent medical exemptions for students, a proposal vehemently opposed by anti-vaccine activists. After expressing hesitancy with the bill and winning substantial changes to the measure in June, Newsom had committed to signing it.

After it passed out of the Senate on Wednesday, advocates said they still expect him to sign it, even as opponents target Newsom and his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, urging a veto.

The bill by state Sen. Richard Pan, a Sacramento Democrat, would allow state public health officials to investigate doctors who grant more than five medical exemptions in a year and schools with vaccination rates of less than 95%. He said lower vaccination rates erode the "community immunity" that limits measles outbreaks like those that reached their highest level in decades this year and that intent of his bill is to "keep children safe."

Anti-vaccine activists have been flooding Siebel Newsom's Instagram account with comments opposing the bill.

With files from the Associated Press


Michelle Faust Raghavan, health care reporter at KPCC with a focus on health policy; she tweets @micheReports