California’s Senate Bill 277: Local Health Jurisdictions’ Experiences With the Elimination of Nonmedical Vaccine Exemptions

Abstract [from journal]

Objectives. To understand the experiences of local health jurisdictions with Senate Bill 277 (SB277), the California law that eliminated nonmedical vaccine exemptions for public- and private-school entry.

Methods. We conducted semistructured telephone interviews with health officers and local health department (LHD) staff in California between August and September 2017.

Results. Two overall themes emerged: (1) vague legislative and regulatory language led to variation in the interpretation and implementation of SB277, and (2) lack of centralized review of medical exemptions allowed medical exemptions that are not consistent with valid contraindications for immunizations to be accepted. Variation in the interpretation and implementation was commonly reported with provisions related to individualized education programs and special education, and independent study programs and homeschooling. Without a centralized review of medical exemption requests, respondents reported variation in the interpretation of which specialties of physicians can write medical exemptions, which conditions constitute a valid contraindication for immunization, and the process for reporting a questionable or suspicious medical exemption.

Conclusions. The regulatory language within SB277 led to variation in how the law was interpreted and implemented within and across LHD jurisdictions and school districts.