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Mandatory vaccination bill clears hurdle in Calif.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Opponents of a proposal that would require California schoolchildren to be vaccinated vowed to continue their fight after a Senate committee overwhelmingly approved the bill Wednesday.

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The Senate Education Committee voted 7-2 on the bill by Sen. Richard Pan, a Democratic pediatrician from Sacramento, with votes from both Democrats and Republicans.

The bill now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee for a hearing next week as part of a long legislative process.

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"We will continue to show our strength, and we will continue to educate lawmakers and the public about why this is a bad bill," said Jean Keese, a spokeswoman for the California Coalition for Health Choice.

The proposal was among several drafted across the nation in the wake of a measles outbreak that started at Disneyland and sickened more than 100 people in the U.S. and Mexico.

It would eliminate California's personal-belief and religious exemptions so unvaccinated children would not be able to attend public or private schools. Medical waivers would only be available for children who have health problems.

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Lawmakers had delayed a vote on the bill last week after some on the Education Committee worried it would deprive unvaccinated children of an adequate education.

Pan made changes that let families that opt out of vaccines to homeschool their children together and allowing students to seek independent study.

"It's a strong sign that people want to be sure that we protect our kids, protect our schools and protect our communities from these preventable diseases," Pan said of Wednesday's vote.