Opponents of a new law that eliminates the state’s personal belief exemption for vaccines have submitted signatures for a ballot measure to overturn it.
They needed to turn in 365,000 signatures by midnight last night to get on the November, 2016 ballot. It’s not clear how many signatures were submitted. Backers say the submitted 50,000 signatures from Los Angeles County, the most from any county in the state.
It could take up to a month for state officials to verify the signatures and determine whether the measure has qualified. The new law is supposed to take effect next Jul, but its implementation would be delayed if the measure is heading for the ballot.
The vaccine law was prompted by a measles outbreak that started at Disneyland last December that sickened 131 people in the California and many more in other states and Mexico. Backers say it’s needed to stem the rising tide of California parents who choose not to immunize their children. Scientists speak of “herd immunity,” saying that at least 92 percent of people need to be immunized to keep a community safe.
The number of parents opting out of immunizations has doubled in California since 2007, with the biggest increase in the most affluent areas. Some parents opt out for religious reasons but most do it out of concern that vaccinations can cause other health problems. Those beliefs have persisted even though the medical community is solidly behind vaccinations and the most reliable science has shown that they are safe.
Former GOP Assemblyman Tim Donnelly has been leading the initiative drive. He tells the L.A. Times that the referendum was “sabotaged” from the start by powerful forces arrayed against it. But he says vaccine opponents persevered and he expects the measure to qualify.
Whether it would pass is another question. A poll taken in June found that two-thirds of Californians support mandatory vaccinations for school children.