Governor Signs SB 277, Eliminates Personal Belief Exemption from Immunization Requirement

July 6, 2015 | Bulletin No. 1270604.1

SB 277 was signed into law by Governor Brown on June 30, 2015, and will take effect on January 1, 2016.  SB 277 eliminates the personal belief exemption from the immunization requirement, but preserves the medical exemption. 

Specifically, SB 277 prohibits the governing authority of a public or private school (including public or private elementary or secondary schools, day care centers/nursery schools, family care homes, and child development centers) (a "School") from unconditionally enrolling students who have established a personal belief exemption from immunizations. 

As of January 1, 2016, children entering School will be required to show proof of the following ten immunizations: 

  • Diphtheria
  • Hepatitis B
  • Influenzae Type B
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Pertussis (Whooping Cough)
  • Polio
  • Rubella
  • Tetanus Hepatitis B
  • Varicella (Chickenpox)

However, a  child who has a personal belief exemption on file with the School before January 1, 2016, can remain unconditionally enrolled without the required immunizations until the child enrolls in the next grade span.  A grade span means: birth to preschool, transitional kindergarten/kindergarten through grade 6; and grades 7 to 12, meaning that immunization "checkpoints" occur in kindergarten and 7th grade.  So for example, if a currently enrolled kindergartener has a personal belief exemption on file before January 1, 2016, that child could remain enrolled without required vaccinations up until the next "checkpoint" when he/she enters 7th grade.  At that next "checkpoint," the child will be required to have the necessary immunizations. 

Moreover, after July 1, 2016, (1) a child could not be admitted to School for the first time until he/she obtained the specified immunizations and (2) a child could not be advanced to the 7th grade until the specified immunizations were obtained. 

However, SB 277 exempts the following from the immunization requirements:

  • Children enrolled in home-based private schools and students in independent study programs who do not receive classroom-based instruction.
  • Children who are exempted from the required vaccinations for medical reasons. This exemption requires a written statement by a licensed physician that immunization is not safe for the child, and must indicate the specific nature and probable duration of the medical condition or circumstances, included, but not limited to, family medical history.

SB 277 states a school district must permit special education students to access any special education and related services required by the student’s IEP in those cases where the student does not have current immunizations.

In his signing message, Governor Brown stated "SB 277, while requiring that school children be vaccinated, explicitly provides an exception when a physician believes that circumstances – in the judgment and sound discretion of the physician – so warrant." 

SB 227 also amends Health and Safety Code section 120375 to require the governing authority of a School to do the following:

  1. Prohibit the further attendance of any non-exempted student who fails to obtain the required immunizations by January 1, 2016, until such time as the child has obtained the required immunizations.
  2. File a written report on the immunization status of all new entrants to the School with the California Department of Education and local health department.
  3. Cooperate with the county health officer in carrying out programs for immunization of children applying for admission.  The governing authority may use funds, property, and personnel for that purpose, and may permit any licensed physician and qualified Registered Nurse to administer immunizations to children seeking admission.

What This Means To You

Districts need to advise parents of the new immunization requirements imposed by SB 277.  As of January 1, 2016, Districts will need to prohibit attendance of non-exempted students who are not currently immunized.  After July 1, 2016, Districts will need to prohibit admittance of a non-immunized student for the first time and cannot advance a student to the 7th grade unless the specified immunizations are obtained.

Districts also will need to determine how to address students who do not have current immunizations and that receive special education services, since these students cannot be prohibited from accessing special education and related services required by his/her IEP.