Nursing & Healthcare News

Vaccination Exemptions

ANA rejects religious exemptions as California considers tighter rules

With outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases on the rise, the ANA is saying no to religious exemptions and the California Legislature is weighing stricter rules for medical exemptions.

Preventable Outbreaks

In a statement issued on June 22, the American Nurses Association declared unequivocally, “Given the recent surge of measles cases and potentially uncontrollable outbreaks of other vaccine-preventable illnesses, ANA no longer supports religious exemption as a reason not to get vaccinated.”

California has already eliminated religious or personal belief exemptions for the vaccinations children must receive to attend school or daycare. Now, State Senator Richard Pan, M.D., MPH (D-Sacramento), who wrote that 2015 law, is pushing for tighter guidelines for medical exemptions as well.

“Vaxx-friendly” Doctors

Pan is concerned that vaccine-hesitant parents may be paying cooperative physicians (known as “vaxx-friendly” among anti-vaxxers) to write medically unfounded or fraudulent exemptions. In some areas, a handful of physicians are responsible for most vaccination exemptions.

For example, San Diego M.D. Tara Zandvliet has written 29 percent of all medical exemptions in the San Diego Unified School District — an average of three dozen a year. California Department of Public Health (CDPH) data shows that the rate of medical exemptions for mandatory vaccinations has quadrupled since 2015, a trend Pan says “is putting kids and communities at risk.”

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S.B. 276 Passes Senate

To stem this tide while protecting “students who truly need a medical exemption,” Pan introduced S.B. 276, which would require providers to issue vaccination exemptions electronically through the California Immunization Registry.

Public health officials would be able to refuse or revoke exemptions not consistent with current medical guidelines. Parents or guardians could still appeal to an independent review panel. The bill would also crack down on “vaxx-friendly” doctors, calling for additional scrutiny of any provider who issues five or more exemptions in the same calendar year.

S.B. 276 passed the Senate on May 22 and is now being considered in the Assembly.


Editor’s note:

S.B. 276 subsequently passed the Assembly and was signed into law in September 2019


Aaron Severson is a freelance writer, editor, and writing consultant as well as the associate editor of Working Nurse.


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