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

Opponents of a law requiring almost all school children in California to be vaccinated against diseases such as measles and whooping cough submitted signatures Monday in an attempt to qualify a referendum to overturn it.

Valid signatures from 365,880 registered voters — 5 percent of the total votes cast for governor in the 2014 general election — are needed to qualify the referendum for the November 2016 ballot, according to Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

The amount of signatures submitted was not immediately known.

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

“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.

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.

Sen. Dr. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, one of the bill’s authors, told KOVR- TV, the CBS owned-and-operated station in Sacramento, opponents “had the right to pursue a referendum, but at the same time I believe the people of California want to see their communities protected against diseases like measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases.”

— City News Service

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Chris Jennewein

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