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Warning: Senator Seeks Investigation into Medical Exemptions for School Vaccinations

In 2015, Senate Bill 277 undid the personal-belief exemption that allowed parents to opt-out of school vaccinations based on individual views, but maintained exemptions for medical reasons. State Senator Richard Pan, M.D. (D-Sacramento), who co-authored the bill, says he’s now in early talks with the Medical Board regarding an investigation of doctors accused of granting medically unnecessary vaccination exemptions.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that in the 20 years before SB-277 passed, the percentage of kindergartners with medical exemptions for vaccinations was stable. However, medical exemptions for kindergartners tripled in 2016, the first year SB-277 went into effect. The study suggests that the bill’s medical exemption has created a loophole for doctors and parents to avoid vaccinating school-age children.

Pan, a pediatrician, championed the bill after seeing immunization rates fall below levels needed to maintain herd immunity, which occurs when a high percentage of the population is immunized against an infectious disease, creating less of an opportunity for an outbreak.

Despite medical exemptions, overall immunization rates have risen since the passage of SB-277. The state reports that the percentage of California kindergartners who have received all required vaccines increased from 92.8 percent in the 2015-2016 school year to 95.6 percent in the 2016-2017 school year.

For more information, visit CA.gov or JAMANetwork.com.

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