California Governor Signs Bill Limiting Vaccine Exemptions

Along with West Virginia and Missouri, the state will now allow parents to opt their children out of vaccinations only for medical reasons.

A children's doctor injects a vaccine against measles, rubella, mumps and chicken pox to an infant on February 26, 2015 in Berlin, Germany.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

California now has some of the most stringent vaccination requirements in the country after Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, on Tuesday signed into law a bill limiting exemptions, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Along with West Virginia and Missouri, the state will now allow parents to opt their children out of vaccinations only for medical reasons, not for religious or personal ones, according to the newspaper. Children will have to be vaccinated to attend both public and private schools. 

The push to limit exemptions came in the wake of a measles outbreak linked to Disneyland in southern California that infected more than 130 children in the state. The New York Times in February reported that a quarter of California schools had vaccination rates lower than the the threshold deemed safe by the Centers for Disease Control. 

Opponents to the bill argued that the limitations took away too many parental rights and that vaccines can be dangerous, the Mercury News reported. (A study that once linked vaccines to autism was discredited but has persisted in fueling fear among some parents and activists.)

Amid the outbreak, 2016 presidential contenders were put on the spot with questions about their stances on vaccination. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican who announced his campaign Tuesday, initially said parents should have “some measure of choice” about vaccinations and later had to clarify his position, saying kids should be vaccinated against measles. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, also a Republican, said vaccines should be voluntary and also alluded to the belief they may cause health problems. Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton tweeted in support of vaccines, writing, “The science is clear: The earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork.”

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