SACRAMENTO (CBSLA.com/AP) — California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Tuesday that requires all school children to be vaccinated, according to officials.
Democratic Sens. Richard Pan of Sacramento and Ben Allen of Santa Monica introduced Senate Bill 277 after an outbreak of measles at Disneyland in December infected over 100 people in the U.S. and Mexico.
On Monday, the Senate reaffirmed the bill striking California's personal belief exemption for immunizations on a 24-14 vote.
California joins Mississippi and West Virginia as the only states with such strict requirements.
In a signing statement (PDF) released by his office, Brown acknowledged the hotly-contested debate surrounding the legislation.
"While it's true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community," said Brown.
Under SB 277, medical exemptions will still be granted to children with serious health issues.
Children whose parents refuse vaccination can try to obtain a medical exemption or be home-schooled. Otherwise, school-age children who currently claim a personal belief exemption will need to get fully vaccinated by kindergarten and seventh grade, the state's two vaccine checkpoints.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl hailed the bill, saying it will protect "our children and our communities from a host of entirely preventable communicable diseases."
Last week, Los Angeles Unified School District officials said they were behind SB 277's intent of "boosting vaccination rates through the state," adding that the requirement "will ensure a safer and healthier environment for our schools."
The measure has prompted the most heated legislative debate of the year with thousands of parents taking to social media and flooding the Capitol in recent weeks to oppose the bill at legislative hearings. They and some lawmakers say that the state is eliminating informed consent and trampling on parental rights.
Christina Hillebrand with the group A Voice For Choice, which opposed SB 277, told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO she remains confident the courts will strike down the legislation.
"Our California Constitution guarantees our children a right to a free and public education," said Hillebrand. "This takes that away unless you are willing to have vaccines forced upon your children."
Aliso Viejo mother, Melissa Floyd, says her 2-year-old daughter Serenity suffered inconsolable crying fits and silent seizures after being vaccinated.
"This is a life-changing event for so many families. This is not a casual decision for us," Floyd said. "We did vaccinate and here we are in a situation where she suffered those adverse reactions twice, and why is she being punished? Why are we being punished?"
Floyd says she will apply for a medical exemption on behalf of her daughter, but there are no guarantees she will receive one — especially since Serenity's pediatrician refuses to see her for a well-visit appointment because of her partially-vaccinated status.
"We are going to keep fighting this because we're confident this is unconstitutional," Floyd said.
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