California vaccine bill clears major legislative hurdle

SACRAMENTO, California (AP) — California’s Assembly on Thursday approved a hotly contested bill requiring that nearly all public schoolchildren be vaccinated, clearing one of its last major legislative obstacles before the measure heads to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown.

The bill aims to increase immunization rates after a measles outbreak linked to Disneyland in December sickened over 100 people in the U.S. and Mexico.

It would give California one of the nation’s strictest vaccine laws by striking the state’s personal belief exemption. Only children with serious health issues would be allowed to opt out of mandatory vaccine schedules. Unvaccinated children would need to be homeschooled.

The measure passed after weeks of vocal opposition, with thousands of parents protesting at the Capitol.

Brown has not said whether he would sign the bill.

Opposition was fierce during the Assembly debate. Both Democrats and Republicans spoke against the loss of parental autonomy.

“We do not have the right, nor should we have the power, to take away a parent’s right to choose,” said Assemblyman Devon Mathis.

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Associated Press Writer Judy Lin contributed to this story.

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