Parents who do not wish to vaccinate their children against common childhood diseases before entering school must now obtain a doctor's signature on a new form released Wednesday.
The California Department of Public Health made available the Personal Belief Exemption form that parents or guardians are required to use to exempt their children from childhood vaccinations as required by a new state law that takes effect Jan. 1.
Vaccination rates for some childhood diseases have fallen below the 90% target in recent years. Some parents refuse to vaccinate their children, often citing fears that vaccines cause autism. A British study that was a source of fears has been discredited as an "elaborate fraud."
"The Department of Public Health encourages parents to get their children vaccinated as it is the best and safest way to prevent many serious, often deadly, diseases in children," said Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the department of public health.
"It is important that parents make an informed decision, and this new form encourages education about vaccinations while protecting an individual’s constitutional rights."
The new form must be signed by both a doctor and a parent or guardian when seeking an exemption from required vaccinations. The new form also allows for a religious exemption.
The form acknowledges that a doctor has provided information to the parent or guardian regarding the benefits and risks of immunization, including the health risks to the student and the community resulting from declining the recommended immunizations.
All new students in California schools who wish to be exempt from one or more required immunizations because of their personal beliefs must provide this form to their school. The law applies to students from kindergarten through 12th grade, as well as students advancing to 7th grade and children newly admitted to a childcare facility.