Capitol Alert

Gavin Newsom agrees to sign California bill restricting vaccine exemptions

A proposed law that would restrict medical exemptions for vaccines has support from California Gov. Gavin Newsom now that it was modified to address his concerns about parents’ rights.

Newsom told a gaggle of reporters on Tuesday during an event with Native American tribes that he would sign the newly amended Senate Bill 276, which was changed after passing the Senate to address concerns that the state would have too much power over medical exemptions issued by doctors.

In early June he expressed doubts about the bill, saying he didn’t want government officials making decisions that should be between patients and doctors.

State Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, had been working with the governor’s office for two weeks before he announced that he accepted changes that both Newsom and the Medical Board of California wanted to see.

Pan expanded a major provision of the bill that would have restricted doctors to guidelines under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when they administer medical exemptions. The guidelines now include more exemptions that are allowed by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“We worked very closely,” Newsom said. “The amendments reflect not only my concerns but also a number of key representatives whose job it is to carry out the law. This will make it workable and addressed some of my bureaucratic anxieties.”

Parents are given additional power under the amendments, because they can appeal decisions made by public health officials who might revoke or deny medical exemptions.

“I want to thank Gov. Newsom for his leadership on children’s health and standing up for science and the importance of vaccination by supporting SB 276,” Pan said in a Tuesday statement regarding the amendments. “I appreciate that the governor has worked with me in crafting a California solution to halting the abuse of medical exemptions that endanger our children.”

The Assembly must pass the bill before Newsom can sign it.

Pan argues that children who need medical exemptions will be able to get them under the legislation, but that signing off on exemptions should be a rare occurrence. He’s also argued that the national measles outbreak ⁠— with 52 out of 1044 cases reported in California ⁠— could worsen and spread to children who are too sick to get vaccinated, by way of children going to school under fraudulent exemptions.

But the Advocates for Physicians’ Rights still opposes the bill, and issued a statement saying that the oversight would compel doctors to “quit their job.”

My greatest concern is this bill not only violates the medical freedom of an individual, but also violates the physician’s right to treat their patients,” said Nicole Shorrock, a doctor who testified against the bill during a committee hearing. “Vaccines are like all medications and have inherent risks.”

Sophia Bollag covers California politics and government. Before joining The Bee, she reported in Sacramento for the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times. She grew up in California and is a graduate of Northwestern University.
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Hannah Wiley joined The Bee as a legislative reporter in 2019. She produces the morning newsletter for Capitol Alert and previously reported on immigration, education and criminal justice. She’s a Chicago-area native and a graduate of Saint Louis University and Northwestern.