SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Parents who don't have their children vaccinated will have to get a waiver from the doctor's office before enrolling their children in school under a new California law.
Gov. Jerry Brown announced Sunday that he has signed AB2109.
It will require parents who enroll students who have not received the required public school vaccines to get a waiver from a physician or a nurse practitioner saying they have received information about the benefits and risks of immunization.
Democratic Assemblyman Richard Pan of Sacramento praised Brown for signing his bill amid the largest national whooping cough epidemic in 50 years. Pan, a pediatrician, says vaccines can prevent life-long injury and death.
"It's a major victory for public health - a major victory for children and families," Pan said.
Opponents including former Saturday Night Live actor Rob Schneider say it infringes on parental rights and increases medical costs for families.
In signing the law, Governor Brown added an administrative exemption to enforcement by the state health department for those with religious objections to immunizations.
In his letter, Brown said "additionally, I will direct the department to allow for a separate religious exemption on the form. In this way, people whose religious beliefs preclude vaccinations will not be required to seek a health care practitioner's signature."
Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, who opposed the bill because he believes it infringes on parental rights, said the exemption creates a potential loophole for parents who want to avoid vaccinating their children.
"You may see a lot of conversions. You may see a lot of people who say, you know, this is a religious issue for me now because life is involved," Donnelly said.
Donnelly said he also expects to see legal challenges based on the Constitution's equal protection clause by those who have objections but who are not necessarily religious.
Pan said he believes the law will add another measure of protection for Californian's from infectious diseases by upping vaccination rates.
"That could be the margin that makes the difference between a disease spreading throughout the community or being contained," Pan said.
The Associated Press