Measles Outbreak Sparks Bid To Strengthen Calif. Vaccine Law : Shots - Health News California lawmakers are proposing new limits on the ability of parents to opt out of vaccinations. It's a response to a measles outbreak that originated in that state.

Measles Outbreak Sparks Bid To Strengthen Calif. Vaccine Law

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And as public health officials scramble to contain a measles outbreak that started here in Southern California, California lawmakers introduced a bill yesterday that would require most kids to get fully vaccinated before going to school. Kaiser Health News' Jenny Gold has this story.

JENNY GOLD, BYLINE: California allows parents to opt out of getting their children vaccinated. It's called a personal belief exemption, and some public health experts blame the exemption for the recent outbreak of measles. State Senator Richard Pan wants to get rid of the personal belief exemption altogether.

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SENATOR RICHARD PAN: Every year that goes by, we are adding to the number of unvaccinated people, and so that's putting everyone at greater risk. We should not have to wait for someone to sicken and die before we act.

GOLD: In some schools in California, more than half of the children have an exemption. If this new legislation becomes law, all of those kids would be required to get fully vaccinated in order to go to school. Pan, who's also a pediatrician, says most parents in the state would support that.

PAN: People are speaking out and they are calling my office and telling me, please help us by getting children immunized so that my children can be safe.

GOLD: The exemption isn't new. It's been around since the 1960s. But the number of parents taking the exemption went way up in the past decade. Dorit Reiss, a law professor at the University of California Hastings, worries that a small minority of parents would just try to skirt the new law.

DORIT REISS: They'll either fake a child's records, find a doctor we need to sign that the child is vaccinated when the child isn't or they will homeschool.

GOLD: If a school doesn't know who is vaccinated, they don't know who to send home in case there's an outbreak. Reiss, instead, would like to see a law that would make it harder to get a personal belief exemption, but not get rid of it entirely. For NPR News, I'm Jenny Gold.

MONTAGNE: And that story comes to us from our partner, Kaiser Health News.

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