State Sen. Loni Hancock called SB 277 a Draconian
bill to protect children from infectious diseases.

STATE SENATE | A controversial Senate Bill that would remove the personal belief exemption for parents wary of vaccinations for their children stalled in a senate committee Wednesday led in part by opposition from East Bay State Sen. Loni Hancock.

“I’m looking for the compelling state interest in doing something here as Draconian as I read this bill,” Hancock said of Senate Bill 277, co-authored by State Sen. Richard Pan and Ben Allen, during the State Senate Education Committee.

Last week, the senate health committee approved the bill which has attracted strong opposition from parents and anti-vaxxer groups who believe immunization of children cause unduly harm and potentially contributes to greater incidents of autism.

The education committee, however, found fault with language in the bill regarding home schooling as an alternative for children who are not fully vaccinated. Under state law, parents of children attending public schools must provide proof of immunization.

“I’m a person who believes in vaccines. My kids are vaccinated. I think I would hope kids would get vaccinated,” said Hancock, who added, “It says there is nothing you can do if you choose not to vaccinate your child except personally home school them.”

“I’m not disputing the desirability of having kids immunized, [but] whether this is actually the best way to build a community consensus around it,” she said.

The state’s interests rests in stopping infectious diseases like the measles outbreak at Disneyland last year from spreading, said Pan. “Parents demand that their children are safe at school,” he continued and infectious outbreaks disrupts the class room and leads to students being quarantined at home for weeks at a time.

State Sen. Carol Liu, who chairs the committee, was troubled by the effective penalty for declining immunization is home schooling. “I dont’ think that’s a solution to the problem,” said Liu. Later, while noting a lack of support for the bill, Liu told Pan, “If I were you, I would not take a vote today.” Pan agreed. The issue will return to the education committee on April 22 as a vote-only agenda item.