by Phil Willon and Melanie Mason
Adopting one of the most far-reaching vaccination laws in the nation, California on Tuesday barred religious and other personal-belief exemptions for schoolchildren, a move that could affect tens of thousands of students and sets up a potential court battle with opponents of immunization.
California’s weakened public health defenses against measles and other preventable diseases led to the adoption of the measure, signed Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown, intended to stem the rising number of parents who opt not to inoculate their children.
Public health officials said a proliferation of waivers, many sought because of unfounded concerns about the safety of vaccines, helped fuel a measles outbreak that started at Disneyland in December and quickly spread across the West, infecting 150 people.
“I think it’s a great day for California’s children. You’re living in a state that just got a little safer,” said Dr. Paul Offit, chief of the division of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and an advocate of immunization.
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