California Governor Jerry Brown officially ended months of debate Tuesday by signing a bill that will require almost all of the state's children to be vaccinated if they wish to attend public or private schools there.
"The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases. While it's true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community," Brown said in a signing statement.
For parents looking for a go-around, the law makes an allowance only in cases of medical necessity as determined by a physician. With Brown's signature, California joined Mississippi and West Virginia as the only states in the country where medical exemptions are the sole legitimate option to avoid vaccination, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
"It's a huge win for vaccinations and public health," Catherine Flores Martin, director of the California Immunization Coalition, told Mic. "The governor was listening to the science and the experts, and we admire his courage and the courage of the legislators."
The bill took on ever-greater urgency after California suffered a measles outbreak earlier this year. Beginning at Disneyland in December 2014, the disease went on to infect as many as 142 people ranging in age from 6 weeks to 70 years old. The outbreak was only ruled contained in April.
The emergence of a disease thought be have been eliminated only 15 years ago was largely blamed on dangerously low vaccination rates among Californians in recent years.
The trend, mostly among the state's more affluent citizens, caught on after a now-debunked study claiming a link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and autism — the latter of which has risen dramatically in recent years.
With the support of vocal advocates like actress Jenny McCarthy, vaccination rates among some wealthy Californian communities fell to levels comparable to South Sudan. Thanks to vaccine skepticism around the country, other diseases like whooping cough and mumps, which once only posed a threat to Oregon Trail avatars, have leaped into the 21st century.
Thanks in large part to vaccines, the average lifespan in the U.S. jumped almost 20 years between 1930 and 2011. "It's a public health issue," Martin said. "Nobody wants to get poked with a shot but it's something we do because we want to keep ourselves healthy and our children healthy."