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Newsom Signs Controversial Vaccine Bills Aimed At Curbing Fraudulent Medical Exemptions

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed bills Monday to crack down on doctors who write fraudulent medical exemptions for school children's vaccinations.

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Speaker 1: 00:00 Yesterday and governor Gavin Newsome signed a pair of bills cracking down on fraudulent medical exemptions for school children's vaccinations. The new law was signed as anti-vaccine advocates swarmed the Capitol

Speaker 2: 00:20 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 00:21 state Capitol reporter for KQ e d Katie or was there at the Capitol and joined us with details about what this new law means. Katie, welcome. Thanks for having me. So what was the scene like at the Capitol yesterday? Well, you know, jade, I've been up here for Gosh, going on over six years and I honestly have never seen anything like that. Um, I've never seen sessions be shut down by protestors like that. Um, for about two hours they successfully shut down the Senate and the assembly. Um, and that was after they had blocked doors to the capitol. They filled the hallways in front of the governor's office. At one point they were blocking the front door to his office to try and get their point across. Um, it was a very tense day for a lot of people. And remind us why there is so much controversy surrounding these vaccinations.

Speaker 1: 01:11 Well, these two bills, as you mentioned, would limit medical exemptions for vaccines. Basically giving the state more oversight into whether or not these exemptions are approved. And that's something these protesters very strongly oppose. Um, they don't believe the state should one man mandate that their kids get vaccinated. And two, they are worried that these um, new rules will, might get increasingly hard or almost impossible to get a medical exemption for a vaccine. And so, you know, even though surveys show the vast majority of California in support mandatory vaccinations for school kids, this group came out and they're very, very vocal in their opposition and the governor signed two different bills to crack down on doctors who write these medical exemptions for school children's vaccinations. Remind us why there were two bills. Sure. And this is was another unusual aspect to this whole saga. The original bill was SB two 76, and that mandates among other things that doctors who write more than a five medical exemptions a year, a have those exemptions then reviewed and schools with an overall immunization rate of less than 95% exemptions for those schools would be reviewed as well.

Speaker 1: 02:33 So last week the bill had, uh, had one of its final votes in the state assembly and after that vote was taken and the bill passed, Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted that he wanted to see changes. And that was complicated because the legislature was running out of time. Their last day in session is this Friday. And as it was noted before, the bill had already been amended to reflect some of the changes that the governor wanted. So it was incredibly rare to see the governor do this so late in the process. But the end result of that was SB seven 14, which basically says the clock on the five exemption count for doctors won't start until 20, 20. And it allows some kids with exemptions, a grace period to keep those exemptions. If they don't expire until they switch to another, they call it grade span. So if you're in kindergarten and you have a permanent exemption, it can stay til you go into seventh grade.

Speaker 1: 03:34 Seventh through high school is another span. So those were some of the compromises that they made with the governor. But again, it was just very unusual to see him calling for changes so late in the game. Anyway. Yeah, a lot has gone into, um, this legislation. Can you tell me why lawmakers think it is so important to take these measures? Well, of course we've seen measles outbreaks around the country, um, coming back measles of course, of a disease that we have a vaccine for. And at one point it was, you know, extremely rare. Now it's making a resurgence. Um, and this bill also coincides with the state's elimination of the personal belief exemption in 2015 that became a law that you can't just sign a form saying, you know, I, uh, I oppose vaccines for this, you know, my own personal beliefs. And that was okay in 2015 it became, you need a medical exemption if you don't want your kid to be vaccinated.

Speaker 1: 04:32 But then there were stories of doctors around the state essentially selling medical vaccine, fact seen exemptions to families. And this bill is meant to crack down on that so that people getting a medical exemption are those that truly need it. And while this legislation was being debated, did anyone come to the floor and present evidence that suggest, um, some of these vaccine exemptions are medically needed. Doctors acknowledged, you know, there's some risk with everything that you do. Um, and they're not 100% vaccines are not 100%, but they overall are better for the community. And your odds of getting sick from a vaccine are less than your odds of getting a disease like measles, which could kill you. So I think it's really the, the view in the, in the legislature essentially, especially among Democrats, seems to be like the science settled, uh, vaccines work. And we as a state government are going to do what we can to make sure as many kids get them as possible. I've been speaking to state capitol reporter Katie or with KQ e D Katie. Thank you very much. You're welcome.

Speaker 3: 05:49 [inaudible].

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.