Poll shows a majority of California voters support stricter vaccination law

While protests at the State Capitol throughout this year’s legislative session surrounding Senate Bill 276 (Pan, D-Sacramento) — a bill that tightens up California’s restrictions on vaccine exemptions for public and private school attendance — grabbed headlines around the state and garnered national media attention, a new poll conducted for the Los Angeles Times shows a majority of Californians support the new law, regardless of political affiliation, income levels, education attainment and where they reside.

The UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll found that 90 percent of Democrats, 82 percent of those with no party preference and 73 percent of Republicans supported the effort to increase immunization rates at schools and day care facilities by allowing the California Department of Public Health to review and possibly reject a doctor’s determination that a child should skip all or some of their vaccinations. The poll also found that the highest levels of opposition were among voters earning between $20,000 and $100,000 per year, although that still amounted to fewer than two in 10 voters saying they disagreed with the law. Among voters with a college or postgraduate degree, 89 percent supported the law.

The legislation was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 9 and will take effect on Jan. 1, 2020. The law will allow the state some oversight of medical exemptions written after Jan. 1, 2020, for students attending public and private schools and day care centers. Medical exemptions written before Jan. 1, 2020, will not come under state review, but new medical exemptions will be required when a child enters kindergarten, seventh grade or changes schools.

The law will require a clinically trained physician, surgeon or registered nurse from the state Department of Public Health to annually review immunization reports from schools and institutions to identifythose with an overall immunization rate of less than 95 percent; doctors who submitted five or more medical exemption forms in a calendar year; and schools and institutions that do not report immunization rates to the department. The law also authorizes the medical exemptions determined by that staff member to be inappropriate or otherwise invalid to be reviewed by the State Public Health Officer or a physician and surgeon designated by the State Public Health Officer, and revoked by the State Public Health Officer or physician and surgeon designee, under prescribed circumstances.

Pan thanked the Governor in a statement released by his office after the signing of the bill, stating, “I thank the Governor for standing with science, and once again making California a leader in safeguarding children and communities from diseases that threaten our public health.”