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California lawmakers approve child vaccine mandate bill

California General Assembly approved a bill that would eliminate the exemption for personal or religious beliefs that allows parents to opt out of vaccinations. It is unclear whether Gov. Brown will sign the bill.

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A pediatrician holds a dose of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine at his practice in Northridge, Calif. on Jan. 29.

Damian Dovarganes/AP/File

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California’s Assembly has approved a hotly contested bill requiring that almost all public school children be vaccinated.

The legislation would eliminate the exemption for personal or religious beliefs that allows parents to opt out of vaccinations.

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Thursday's vote was one of the last major obstacles before the measure heads for to the governor's desk for either approval or disapproval. 

In the wake of a measles outbreak at Disneyland in California which affected more than 100 people earlier this year, several state legislatures began entertaining the idea of eliminating either the personal belief or religious exemptions for vaccinations, and in some cases, both.

In May California senators voted 25 to 10 in favor of the bill following a heated debate. The bill states that California parents who choose not to vaccinate their children may have to start considering home schooling.

The California State Assembly passed the bill after weeks of vocal opposition of parents who do not want to vaccinate their children. 

Most parents who decide against vaccination are not “anti-vaccine” but rather “vaccine-anxious,” professor Mark Largent, a historian at Michigan State University in East Lansing and the author of "Vaccine: The Debate in Modern America" told The Christian Science Monitor. "If you want to increase the number of kids who are vaccinated against communicable diseases, you have to admit that ultimately parents get to make this decision,” he said.

In an effort to calm parents’ anxiety, many health professionals assert that the risks of vaccines causing harm for children are far lower than diseases themselves. They also point out that the study linking the vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella to autism has been discredited, but as The New York Times reports some parents are still wary that vaccines could lead to autism.

(Many Christian Science families also seek religious exemptions from vaccines.)

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Before implementation, the bill would require approval from Gov. Jerry Brown (D), but prior to that the state Senate must approve the amendments. Mr. Brown has not said whether he would sign the bill.

If signed into law, California would be the third US state, following Mississippi and West Virginia, that does not permit vaccination exemptions due to religious or personal beliefs.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.