Due to the passing of Senate Bill 277 (SB277) in California, it is mandatory for total immunization of “appropriate age groups” against the following childhood diseases:
- Hepatitis B
- Haemophilus influenzae type b
- Pertussis (whooping cough)
- Varicella (chickenpox)
A parent or guardian who does not want their child immunized against any or all of these diseases may file a personal belief exemption (PBE) by December 31, 2015. This is valid for a private or public elementary or secondary school, child day care center, day nursery, nursery school, family day care home, or development center.
A PBE is valid until your child advances to the next “grade span” or in other words, until they move up to the next school or change schools. The law states that a grade span is:
- Birth to preschool
- Kindergarten through grade 6
- Grades 7-12
For example, if your child started Kindergarten in the fall of 2015 and files a PBE by December 31, 2015, no further vaccines will be required and no other exemption will be asked for until 7th grade. However, when this child enters 7th grade then all the required vaccines must be up to date. If your child started 7th grade in the fall of 2015, then a PBE filed by December 31, 2015 is good through high school.
After December 31, 2015, vaccine exemptions will be available for medical reasons only, not for personal beliefs. SB277 states:
“If the parent or guardian files with the governing authority a written statement by a licensed physician to the effect that the physical condition of the child is such, or medical circumstances relating to the child are such, that immunization is not considered safe, indicating the specific nature and probable duration of the medical condition or circumstances, including, but not limited to, family medical history, for which the physician does not recommend immunization, that child shall be exempt from the requirements of Chapter 1.”
These are some of the situations in which a medical exemption may be warranted:
- Prior vaccine reaction
- History of seizures
- Family history of autoimmune diseases
- Child has an autoimmune disease
- Genetic testing that indicates that there is evidence that this child will suffer a vaccine reaction or autoimmune disease post vaccination.
- Allergy to one or more of the components in the vaccine.
- Temporary exemption because the child needs more vaccines than can be safely given in one visit.
Doctors cannot give a medical exemption because a parent believes that vaccines are generally unsafe and might harm their child.
For those children who still qualify for a PBE, make sure that your child has one filed with the school no later than December 31, 2015 for the upcoming 2016-2017 school year. It’s valid until your child enters a new grade span. A medical exemption is not needed for children who still qualify for a PBE this fall and will not be needed until they enter the next grade span.
You may complete the PBE form, have it signed by your doctor, and retain a date-stamped copy from the school for your records. Download the form online at www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/immunize/Documents/CDPH-8262.pdf
Parents do not have to submit the PBE form if they are not comfortable with the language. Parents can write their own letter, according to SB277 Public health: vaccinations per SEC. 2. 120335. (b) (11) (g) (1) :
“A pupil who, prior to January 1, 2016, submitted a letter or affidavit on file at a private or public elementary or secondary school, child day care center, day nursery, nursery school, family day care home, or development center stating beliefs opposed to immunization shall be allowed enrollment to any private or public elementary or secondary school, child day care center, day nursery, nursery school, family day care home, or development center within the state until the pupil enrolls in the next grade span.”
By law, your school must accept your PBE or “Letter of Affidavit” through the end of 2015. These will remain valid until a pupil reaches the next grade span.
Families can also opt out of having their child’s private health information shared on the California Immunization Registry (CAIR). You must file the CAIR opt out form every year. Download the form online at http://cairweb.org/images/docs/CAIR_Decline_Eng.pdf
The SB277 mandatory vaccine law does not apply to:
- Students in home-based private schools
- Students enrolled in an independent study program who do not receive classroom-based instruction.
- Access to special education and related services specified in an IEP (Individualized Education Program) cannot be denied.