California Law Now Requires Documentation from a Health Care Practitioner to Exempt Students from Vaccination Requirements

In September 2012, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill (“AB”) 2109, requiring additional documentation to exempt a student from vaccination requirements.  AB 2109 amended California Health & Safety Code section 120365, pertaining to immunization exceptions.

The vaccinations required for California K-12 school admission are set forth in Health and Safety Code section 120325 et seq.  (See also Educ. Code § 48216.)  Previously, parents or guardians of students could avoid the immunization requirements by signing a personal belief exemption, stating immunization is contrary to their beliefs.  As of January 1, 2014, students must additionally submit a health care practitioner’s statement to demonstrate the student’s parent/guardian has been informed of the risks and benefits of immunization, as well as the health risks presented to the student and the community by a failure to immunize against communicable disease.

The amended law defines a “health care practitioner” as any of the following:  (1) a physician and surgeon; (2) a nurse practitioner; (3) a physician assistant; (4) an osteopathic physician and surgeon; (5) a naturopathic doctor authorized to furnish or prescribe drugs under s physician and surgeon’s supervision as authorized by Business & Professions Code section 3640.5; or (6) a credentialed school nurse as described in Education Code section 49426.

According to the California Department of Public Health, the new form, containing the health care practitioner’s statement (available here) will only be required when a student is being newly admitted to a public or private child care facility, kindergarten, seventh grade, or upon transfer from out-of-state to California.  Otherwise, the exception or immunization record already in the student’s permanent file will remain in effect.

Some have criticized the new law, arguing it makes it easier for parents/guardians to exempt their children from the requirements because the new form provides a separate box where parents may claim a religious belief prevents them from seeking the advice of a health care professional.  Governor Brown directed the California Department of Public Health to allow for this separate ground for exemption on the form.  Thus, some critics claim the new form encourages parents/guardians to misrepresent the basis for an exemption, as proof of the religious belief is not required.

We note the California Department of Public Health advises schools maintain a current list of pupils with exemptions, so those students may be immediately excluded in the event of an outbreak.

For specific questions regarding the impact or implementation of these new requirements, please contact an AALRR office.

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