CA's New Vaccine Law Will Tighten Rules Around Medical Exemptions

(Courtesy SELF magazine)

Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday signed into law legislation that gives the state the power to reject certain medical exemptions for vaccines.

Most kids in California are vaccinated. It's legally required for them to get into daycare, kindergarten and 7th grade, and their parents have to have the paperwork to prove it.

Kids with a compromised immune system (and those who have had a previous severe allergic reaction to a vaccine) can get a medical exemption from the vaccination requirement. For example, that would cover kids who've had an organ transplant or who are receiving chemotherapy treatments for cancer.

Parents who don't want to abide by the law can get around it by homeschooling their children.

California's vaccination laws are among the strictest in the nation. In 2015, the state did away with personal belief and religious exemptions following the measles outbreak that began at Disneyland.


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This year, State Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) introduced SB 276 in response to reports that some California doctors were issuing medical exemptions for dubious reasons.

Some amendments sought by Gov. Newsom were incorporated into a companion bill, SB 714.

Vaccination opponents lobbied furiously against the legislation.

HERE'S WHAT SB 276 WILL DO:

  • Starting Jan. 1, 2020, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) will have the power to revoke medical exemptions that it determines are not medically necessary.
  • The department will review vaccine exemptions at schools where less than 95% of the kids enrolled are fully vaccinated.
  • The department will review exemptions from doctors who write more than five exemptions in a year.
  • Schools have to publish their students' vaccination rates at least each year.
  • Unvaccinated kids with approved medical exemptions can stay home from school if there's a disease exposure at the school.
  • Doctors or parents can appeal the revocation of a medical exemption to an independent review board of doctors appointed by the California Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Beginning with the 2021-22 school year, kids entering seventh grade will need an updated medical exemption, even if they had one previously.
  • The law is not retroactive; only medical exemptions granted after Jan. 1, 2020 will be subject to review.
  • Doctors who have been placed on probation by the Medical Board of California over issuing invalid medical exemptions will not be allowed to grant any more exemptions.