Vaccine Exemptions

photo illustration of a child receiving a shot


SB 276 could make it harder for parents to avoid vaccinating their children against serious contagious diseases. The bill changes how doctors provide exemptions that allow unvaccinated children to enter school, gives final say to a local public health official instead of a physician, and creates a process for investigating doctors with five or more exemptions and schools with less than 95% vaccine compliance.


Intended to crack down on physicians issuing bogus medical waivers and stop the rise of exemptions across California, the bill was backed by prominent physician groups including the California Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, California and a vocal parent group called Vaccinate California. It’s authored by Democratic Sen. Richard Pan of Sacramento.


Critics objected to state involvement in the doctor-patient relationship and to final authority resting with an official who is not the child’s physician. They also say the new directives may inhibit doctors from writing exemptions even for kids who need them. Protesters temporarily shut down a committee hearing and the Legislature’s floor sessions with cries of “My child, my choice” and “You’re killing our children.” Opponents include Advocates for Physicians’ Rights.


At the state’s last count, about 4,800 California kindergartners had permanent medical exemptions, out of about a half-million students in that grade. But certain parts of the state have higher clusters of unvaccinated kids, potentially putting at risk those who cannot be vaccinated, such as infants and those with compromised immune systems.


Newsom signed the bill Sept. 9, 2019 — not that the process was without controversy. Twice he pushed to alter the legislation, first with amendments that weakened it, and later with a companion bill.