A doctor vaccinates a young girl. Photo courtesy Centers for Disease Control
A doctor vaccinates a young girl. Photo courtesy Centers for Disease Control

Opponents of a recently signed law requiring almost all school children in California to be vaccinated against diseases such as measles and whooping cough received permission Tuesday to begin gathering signatures to qualify a referendum to overturn it.

“This referendum is not about vaccinations; it is about defending the fundamental freedom of a parent to make an informed decisions for their children without being unduly penalized by a government that believes it knows best,” said former Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, the referendum’s proponent.

Valid signatures from 365,880 registered voters — 5 percent of the total votes cast for governor in the 2014 general election — must be submitted by Sept. 28 to qualify the measure for the November 2016 ballot, according to Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

If the attempt to overturn SB 277 qualifies for the ballot, its provisions would be suspended.

The bill, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on June 30, eliminates vaccination exemptions based on religious or personal beliefs. It will require all children entering kindergarten to be vaccinated unless a doctor certifies that a child has a medical condition, such as allergies, preventing it.

The legislation was prompted in part by an outbreak of measles traced to Disneyland that began in late December and ultimately spread to more than 130 people across the state. Cases were also reported in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Oregon, Utah and Washington state.

“As a mother, I understand that the decisions we make about our children’s health care are deeply personal and I respect the fundamental right to make medical decisions as a family,” Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego said on June 25 when SB 277 was approved by the Assembly.

“However, none of us has the right to endanger others. SB 277 strikes the right balance of ensuring informed, thoughtful medical decisions between a family and their doctor and the rights of all our school children to attend school without fear of contracting a potentially fatal, vaccine-preventable disease.”

— City News Service

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.