Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Sunday requiring parents who exclude their children from immunization requirements to submit a signed statement that they received information about risks and benefits of vaccines.
Democratic Assemblyman Richard Pan of Sacramento proposed the measure, Assembly Bill 2109, which requires the statement to be signed by the parents and by a health care practitioner.
In signing the bill, Brown said that he will direct the state Department of Health to provide a way for people whose religious beliefs preclude vaccinations from having to seek a health care practitioner's signature.
Brown noted that AB 2109 does not eliminate parents' current right to exclude their children from vaccinations but attempts to ensure that they have important health information in making that choice.
"This bill is about explaining the value of vaccinations - both the benefits and risks - for an individual child and the community," Brown wrote in a signing message for AB 2109.
"Whether these are simple "information exchanges" or more detailed discussions, they will be valuable even if a parent chooses not to vaccinate," the governor said.
Opponents of AB 2109 blasted it as a form of government coercion that forces parents to jump through a bureaucratic hoop, potentially incurring cost to obtain a healthcare practitioner's signature, before exercising their legal right to opt out of vaccinations.
Pan, a pediatrician by profession, characterized the measure as a way to increase public safety by raising immunization rates.
Low vaccination rates threaten not only families that opt out but numerous Californians who cannot be immunized, including young infants, cancer patients on chemotherapy, AIDS patients and people with vaccine allergies, Pan said.
"As a pediatrician, I have personally witnessed children suffering lifelong inury and death from vaccine-preventable infection," he said in a written statement.
"AB 2109 utilizes the expertise of California's 150,000 licensed health care practitioners to inform parents about the safety and efficacy of vaccines, answering specific questions they may have," he added.
The new law takes effect in January 2014.