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Crackdown on California vaccine exemptions? Gov. Gavin Newsom says he has his doubts

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Saturday he’s concerned about having government officials sign off on vaccine exemptions, arguing those decisions should be made between patients and doctors without government involvement.

“I’m a parent. I don’t want someone that the governor of California appointed to make a decision for my family,” he told reporters after his speech at the California Democratic Party Convention.

Although he didn’t mention the bill explicitly, his comments indicate he doesn’t support a bill by state Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, that would require the California Department of Public Health to sign off on doctors’ medical exemption requests. If the Legislature passes the bill, it would need Newsom’s signature to become law.

Pan’s bill, SB 276, would have physicians fill out a uniform document and then send it to the California Department of Public Health. If it’s denied, a doctor could appeal the decision.

The proposal is a result of what Pan says are a few “unscrupulous physicians” selling exemptions after he passed his SB 277 in 2015 that eliminated personal beliefs from a list of reasons a child could not be vaccinated and still enroll in school.

Pan says the legislation would still allow students who need the medical exemption to get them. But some parents say the bill is “government overreach,” and that the doctor-patient relationship will be compromised if it becomes law.

Although Newsom said he strongly supports the bill Brown signed in 2015, he said he’s concerned about handing those decisions over to a government appointee, not a doctor.

“I believe in immunizations… however I do legitimately have concerns about a bureaucrat making a decision that is very personal,” Newsom said.. “That’s just something we need to pause and think about.”

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Sophia Bollag covers California politics and government. Before joining The Bee, she reported in Sacramento for the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times. She grew up in California and is a graduate of Northwestern University.
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Hannah Wiley joined The Bee as a legislative reporter in 2019. She produces the morning newsletter for Capitol Alert and previously reported on immigration, education and criminal justice. She’s a Chicago-area native and a graduate of Saint Louis University and Northwestern.