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Why SB 277 Should be Repealed

Location: CA
Title: Why SB 277 Should be Repealed
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Why immunization exemptions ban should be repealed, by Terry Roark as published in the San Diego Union Tribune, 10/4/2017 -


SB277 Violates Human and Civil Rights and Should Be Repealed

by Terry Roark


SB277 was passed by the California legislature in 2015 after thousands of parents and their children repeatedly demonstrated in Sacramento opposing the elimination of the personal belief vaccine exemption for school attendance. There was a good reason for public protests: the law violates the human right to informed consent to medical risk taking, [1] [2] as well as other internationally recognized human rights, including the right to autonomy and freedom of thought, conscience and religious belief. [3][4]

Among proponents lobbying for the bill’s passage were large public health and medical trade associations, including the Immunization Action Coalition and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP),which are funded by the CDC and vaccine manufacturers; [5] [6] [7] Biocom, which is funded by PhRMA;[8] and California Medical Association. A June 2015 report revealed that drug companies donated millions of dollars to lawmakers in the 2013-2014 legislative session before the vote on SB277. [9] The bill’s opponents were individual parents, health care professionals and small non-profit organizations representing families and vaccine injured children, including the National Vaccine Information Center, and health policy organizations, such as Association of American Physicians and Surgeons and Nurses for Ethical Standards. [10]

From a disease control perspective, SB277 was unnecessary. In August 2015, the CDC reported that more than 92 percent of children attending kindergarten in California had received two MMR and five pertussis containing vaccines, a vaccination rate higher than in 12 other states. The personal belief vaccine exemption rate for California kindergarteners was 2.5 percent, which was lower than in 14 other states providing personal belief exemptions to vaccination. Additionally, according to the CDC, “exemption status does not always reflect vaccination status. A child with an exemption might not be completely unvaccinated.” [11]  Many children with personal belief exemptions have received or are in the process of receiving vaccines.


Health officials do not know how many vaccinated children and adults transmit infections to others without being diagnosed. [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] In California in 2014, 90 percent of child pertussis cases with vaccine records had been vaccinated. [17] In the 2015 Disneyland-associated measles outbreak, 30 percent of measles cases with vaccine records had been vaccinated with over half the cases in adults and only 18 percent in school children. [18] The measles outbreak ended in four months using traditional disease control measures, with 131 cases reported among the state’s 39 million residents and a total of 188 cases nationally in a US population of 321 million. There were no reported deaths or permanent injuries from measles. [19] [20]

Parents, grandparents and health care professionals, who testified in public hearings that SB277 would violate civil rights and discriminate against vaccine injured and vaccine vulnerable children by segregating and denying them an equal education, got it right. In violation of the California Constitution, today special needs children without every state mandated vaccination are being denied promised education services,[21] [22] while children with personal belief exemptions that don’t expire until they enter kindergarten or 7th grade are being harassed by state health officials. [23] [24]


Although Governor Brown wrote in 2015 that the new law “explicitly provides an exception” whenever “the child’s physician concludes that there are circumstances, including but not limited to, family medical history,” to warrant a medical exemption, [25] the sad reality is that physicians writing medical exemptions today are being threatened with loss of their medical licenses. [26] [27] To make matters worse, SB277 has encouraged pediatricians to refuse medical care to children without every government recommended vaccine, a practice sanctioned by the AAP. [28]


The Institute of Medicine acknowledges in published reports that some children are genetically, biologically and environmentally more susceptible to being harmed by vaccines, but doctors cannot accurately identify who they are because of gaps in vaccine safety science. [29] [30] [31] [32] [33] The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, which shielded pharmaceutical corporations and doctors from civil liability for vaccine injuries and deaths, confirmed that fact and $3.7 billion in federal vaccine injury compensation has been paid to vaccine casualties since 1988. [34]

In the 21st century, California stands alone as the only state to eliminate both the religious and conscientious belief vaccine exemptions. The U.S. Supreme Court majority, ruling in Jacobson v. Massachusetts in 1905 said, “all laws should receive a sensible construction” to prevent being “cruel and inhuman to the last degree.” [35]

SB 277 is cruel and inhuman because it fails to respect biological diversity, discriminates against vulnerable children and violates human and civil rights. It should be repealed.


Terry Roark is the California state advocacy director for the non-profit National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC).


[1]  Nir E. Informed ConsentThe Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2011 (Fall Edition).

[2] Center for Health and Human Rights. How is patient care a human rights issue? Right to informed consent to treatment. Harvard School of Public Health.

[3] National Archives. America’s Founding Documents: Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights. June 26, 2017.

[4] United Nations. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 1948.

[5] Immunization Action Coalition. Funding and IAC Corporate Membership Circle. Aug. 29, 2017.

[6] California Immunization Coalition.

[7]  American Academy of Pediatrics. Corporate Friends and AAP Immunization Grant Programs. 2017.

[8] Biocom. Featured Partners.

[9] Miller J. Drug companies donated millions to CA lawmakers before vaccine debate. Sacramento Bee June 18, 2015.

[10] California Legislature. Bill Text and History – SB277. 2015-2016.

[11] CDC. Vaccination Coverage Among Children in Kindergarten – United States 2014-2015 School Year.MMWR Aug. 28, 2015; 64(33): 897-904.

[12] Warfel JM, Zimmerman LI, Merkel TJ. Acellular pertussis vaccines protect against disease but fail to prevent infection and transmission in a nonhuman primate model. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2014; 111(2): 787–792.

[13] Misegades LK, Winter K, Harriman K et al. Association of Childhood Pertussis With Receipt of 5 Doses of Pertussis Vaccine by Time Since Last Vaccine Dose, California, 2010 JAMA 2012; 308(20): 2126-2132.

[14]  Hickman CJ et al. Outbreak of Measles Among Persons With Prior Evidence of Immunity, New York City, 2011Clin Infect DisFeb. 27, 2014.

[15]  Heffernan JM, Keeling MJ. Implications of Vaccination and waning immunityProc. R. Soc. B June 7, 2009; 276(1664): 2071-2080.

[16]  Nestibo L, Lee BE, Fonesca K et al. Differentiating the wild from the attenuated during a measles outbreak. Paediatr Child Health Apr. 2012; 17(4).

[17] CA Dept. of Public Health. Pertussis Report. Apr. 20, 2015.

[18]  CA Dept. of Health. California Measles Surveillance Update. Apr. 10, 2015.

[19] CA Dept. of Public Health. Measles Outbreak That Began in December Now Over. Apr. 17, 2015.

[20] CDC. Measles Cases and Outbreaks: 2015.

[21] Adams JM. Avoiding controversy, California declines to clarify vaccination law and special edEdSource May 9, 2016.

[22] Adams JM. Orange County says special ed students must comply with vaccination lawEdSource Sept. 23, 2015.

[23] Shots for School. Senate Bill 277 Frequently Asked Questions. Dec. 6, 2016.

[24] Cry for Vaccine Freedom Wall.

[25]  Brown EG. Letter from Governor Brown to Members of the California State Senate. June 30, 2015.

[26] Medical Board of California. 2015-2016 Annual Report: SB277. Page 6.

[27] The Thinking Moms’ Revolution. Dr. Robert Sears Investigation: What’s Wrong with This Picture? Sept. 13, 2016.

[28] Newman Z. Group Suggests Pediatricians Refuse to Treat Some Unvaccinated Children. KOMU-TV Aug. 30, 2016.

[29] Institute of Medicine Vaccine Safety Committee. Adverse Effects of Pertussis and Rubella Vaccines: Executive Summary, Research Needs (p. 8) and Afterword on Research Needs (p. 206-207). Washington, DC. National Academy Press 1991.

[30] Institute of Medicine Vaccine Safety Committee. Adverse Events Associated with Childhood Vaccines: Evidence Bearing on Causality: Need for Research and Surveillance (p. 305-308). Washington, D.C. National Academy Press 1994.

[31] Institute of Medicine Committee to Review Adverse Effects of Vaccines. Adverse Effects of Vaccines: Evidence and Causality: Evaluating Biological Mechanisms of Adverse Events: Increased Susceptibility.  Washington, DC: The National Academies Press 2012. 

[32] Institute of Medicine Committee to Review Adverse Effects of Vaccines. Adverse Effects of Vaccines: Evidence and Causality: Evaluating Biological Mechanisms of Adverse Events (p. 57-102) and Concluding Comments (p. 629-632).  Washington, DC: The National Academies Press 2012.

[33] Institute of Medicine. The Childhood Immunization Schedule and Safety: Stakeholder Concerns, Scientific Evidence and Future Studies: Summary: Health Outcomes and Conclusions About Scientific Findings and Review of Scientific Findings 2013.

[34] Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA). National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program Monthly Statistics Report.

[35] Jacobsen v. Massachusetts. 197 U.S. 11(1905). LSU Law Center.


Created By: Cindy
Create Date: 10/10/2018
Publish Date: 10/8/2017
Expires: 12/31/2019
Type: News
Location: CA
Module Id: 1397
Item Id: 1124