A baby being vaccinated.

California governor signs vaccine law barring religious exemptions for most kids

A baby being vaccinated.

A baby being vaccinated.

The governor of California -- which was ground zero for the Disneyland measles outbreak that infected 117 people -- today signed legislation giving the state one of the toughest school vaccine laws in the country.

California children will no longer be able to skip the shots normally required to attend school because of their parents' religious or personal objections. Unvaccinated children will still be able to attend school if there is a medical reason why they're not able to be immunized, such as treatment for cancer.

"The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases," said Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, in a statement. "While it's true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community."

While all 50 states require school children to be vaccinated, 48 currently allow exemptions for families with religious objections and 20 exempt children based on parents' personal beliefs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Twelve states this year considered legislation addressing vaccine exemptions. In May, Vermont became the first state to repeal its personal belief exemption, although the law still permits exemptions for religious reasons.

Sen. Richard Pan, a pediatrician and cosponsor of the legislation, said he hopes other states will follow California's example.

"As the largest state in the country, we are sending a strong signal to the rest of the country that this can be done, that science and facts will prevail to make sound laws," Pan said.

Supporters of vaccines say the new law will protect public health.

"It is a great day for California's children," said Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases and director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "Finally, someone stood up for California's children."

A growing number of parents have opted to delay or skip vaccines because of concerns over safety. Multiple studies have found vaccines to be safe, with no link to autism or other chronic conditions. Myths about vaccines continue to circulate online, however, and are promoted by a number of celebrities.

Brown noted that California children can still receive an exemption to the vaccine requirement if a physician concludes there are "circumstances, including but not limited to, family medical history, for which the physician does not recommend immunization."

Critics of vaccination had campaigned vigorously against the law, arguing that it infringed on their freedom of choice. Some have vowed to challenge the law in court. The Supreme Court has upheld state vaccine laws twice.

Pediatrician Robert Sears, known for publishing an alternative vaccine schedule that delays a number of shots, predicts that many anti-vaccine parents will take their children out of school.

"When the government tries to force something on families, especially children, parents don't line their kids up to comply. They run the other way," said Sears of Capistrano Beach, Calif., who campaigned against the law. "Forcing parents to choose between vaccines and school is unnecessary and unfair. I predict that more families will shift into homeschooling and co-op, home-based educational programs over this, rather than feel coerced into doing something they don't feel is right for their child. Even more families will lose trust in the government and the medical system."

Studies show that strict school vaccination laws are associated with higher vaccination rates. Communities need to vaccinate at least 92 percent of children against measles to prevent outbreaks, said Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.


(Liz Szabo writes for USA Today.)


  1. Now we sit back and watch the anti-vaxxers come out of the woodwork. Believe that vaccines are linked to autism? Might as well believe in god, too…neither is supported by evidence and both will lead to harm for humanity at large.

  2. What a fitting name Doug! I’m not worried about vaccines I’m worried about the Department of Justices vaccine injury compensation fund running out of money before it can repay all of the grieving parents. Yes Doug your Government already has that set up and paying out ALL KINDS of $$$ . See Doug your Government is run by Fascists that let corporations write the Bills and they don’t even read it before passing. Now Doug will claim some non sense that this is a Conspiracy theory , he’s paid to do that ya see, but you can head right on over and check for yourself. Good talking to you Slug .

  3. Thee world we know is changing, and by the time we hear about it, it will be too late. Behold I am coming quickly, like a thief in the night. But only those who endure until the end will I give the crown of life. Today a shot, tomorrow a mark and the day after the Son of man will be returning. Stand strong brothers and sisters you are not alone Yeshua is building an army that will separate the sheep and the goats..

  4. Anyi-vaxxers are pestilence spreading idiots.

    Ever notice there are no 2nd generation anti-vaccination people? They all were vaccinated to apparent no ill effect, yet they want to risk the lives of their children and others.

    The anti-vaccination crowd has zero sense of proportion. Whatever infinitesimal possible perils the shots may have is nothing compared to the likelihood of being infected by the diseases being immunized against and the fatal results of not being vaccinated against them. They would rather see their children and other children DEAD than deal with their fears in a rational way.

    Btw pestilence spreading Morty,
    How many of those “grieving parents” are there collecting from this fund?

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