What SB 277 Means About Your Child’s Vaccines

An important news alert to all of our families

Childhood immunization has been a hot-button issue for several years now, due to suggested links between vaccinations and autism. While studies have found no link between vaccinations and autism, many parents are still electing not to immunize their children. The rise in unvaccinated children has led to a resurgence of many diseases that had been considered extinct in this country.

In 2010, more than 9,000 cases of whooping cough were reported in California—by far the highest number reported since the whooping cough vaccine was introduced in the 1940s. Ten infants died as a result. In 2014, a measles outbreak infected 159 people, and was traced back to Disneyland.

The reemergence of these highly-communicable diseases prompted the California legislature to pass California Senate Bill 277 (SB 277) which mandates vaccinations for all students attending school.

What You Need to Know About SB 277

Under SB 277, beginning July 1, 2016, except when a child is excused for medical reasons by a licensed physician, public school districts and other educational institutions are prohibited from admitting a child for the first time, or admitting or advancing any student to the seventh grade, unless the child has been immunized for specific diseases.

The following are the diseases for which immunization must be documented:

  • • Diphtheria;
  • • Haemophilus influenzae type b;
  • • Measles;
  • • Mumps;
  • • Pertussis (whooping cough);
  • • Poliomyelitis;
  • • Rubella;
  • • Tetanus;
  • • Hepatitis B;
  • • Varicella (chickenpox); and
  • • Any other disease deemed appropriate by the State Department of Public Health, taking into consideration the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Personal belief is no longer an exemption moving forward.

Students who filed with the school a letter or affidavit stating personal beliefs opposed to immunization prior to January 1, 2016, may continue to be enrolled until their next grade span. A “grade span” is defined as: birth to preschool; kindergarten and grades 1 to 6, inclusive, including transitional kindergarten; and grades 7 to 12, inclusive.

Medical exemption is still valid.

Exemptions from vaccinations for medical reasons are permitted if the parent or guardian files with the school “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.” The statement must indicate the specific nature and probable duration of the medical condition or circumstances for which the physician does not recommend immunization. The written statement must include an account of related family medical history.

SB 277 is not applicable for certain students.

The new law does not apply to students in a home-based private school or students enrolled in an independent study program who do not receive classroom-based instruction.

What about SB 277 and students with IEPS?

Many families are wondering how school districts will be implementing SB 277 when it comes to students with IEPs. SB 277 specifies that its provisions do not prohibit a student who qualifies for an individualized education program (“IEP”) from accessing any special education and related services required by his or her IEP.

However, what happens to students with IEPs whose parents refuse to get the required immunizations for their children? It is unclear how school districts will implement SB 277 in those situations. On the one hand, school districts are trying to comply with the state mandate requiring vaccinations for students, unless a medical reason is provided. On the other hand, federal law states that students with IEPs are entitled to receive special education and related services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). If school districts implement SB 277 strictly by restricting a student with an IEP from receiving special education services due to the fact that they do not have proper vaccinations or a medical reason, districts are running the risk of violating the IDEA, as those students would not be able to receive special education and related services if not allowed in the classroom. Clear guidance is not available on how to interpret the new state mandate, leaving many questions unanswered.

If you have any further questions about how SB 277 applies to your family, please call our Pasadena offices at (626) 440-0028.

For more articles on this topic, check out the following links:
Avoiding controversy, California declines to clarify vaccination law and special ed
California clarifies new law: Provide special ed to unvaccinated students

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