California's state Senate has voted to approve a bill that would eliminate "personal belief exemptions" that have been allowing parents to opt out of mandatory vaccinations required for children's attendance in the state's public schools.

Under the bill, the only remaining exemption from vaccination would be for children with medical issues, such as a weakened immune system, and would have to be verified by a physician.

Parents will no longer be able to seek exemptions based on religious or personal objections.

Homeschooling or independent study programs could become the only option for unvaccinated children.

Two Democratic state Senators, Richard Pan of Sacramento and Ben Allen of Santa Monica, introduced the measure — which passed in the Senate by a vote of 25 to 10 — after an outbreak of measles beginning at Disneyland sickened 134 Californians.

"Vaccines are necessary to protect us. That protection has been eroding," Pan, who is also a pediatrician, said in asking his Senate colleagues to pass the bill, SB 277. "The science is clear: Vaccines are safe and efficacious."

Pan and Allen, in a compromise last week, amended the bill so that unvaccinated students already attending school under personal belief exemptions would not be required to get shots until they enter 7th grade or move to another school district.

Presently, there are more than 13,000 children attending kindergarten in the state who have waivers based on their parents' personal beliefs.

There was considerable opposition to the bill, even in its amended form, from Republicans in the state Senate, including Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, who noted that the Disneyland outbreak eventually came to an end.

"I don't believe the crisis we have seen rises to the level to give up the personal freedoms we enjoy in a free country," he said during debate on the bill.

If the bill is approved by the state Assembly and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown — who has said he supports it — California will become the 33rd state to remove vaccination exemptions based on personal beliefs.

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