The new law, called SB 277, requires almost all California schoolchildren to be fully vaccinated in order to attend private or public school

By Caitlin Keating
Updated July 01, 2015 03:45 PM
Credit: Jeff Chiu/AP

In the wake of the measles outbreak at Disneyland last year that infected 117 people, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill on Tuesday which requires almost all California schoolchildren to be fully vaccinated in order to attend private or public school.

Effective the 2016-17 school year, children will have to be homeschooled if their parents refuse to vaccinate them, the Associated Press reports.

Parents of school-age children will no longer be able to claim a personal or religious belief exemption.

“The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous disease,” Gov. Brown wrote in a statement after showing his support for the new law. “While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.”

Sen. Richard Pan, a pediatrician and cosponsor of the legislation, said that he hopes other states will follow in their footsteps.

“As the largest state in the country, we are sending a strong signal to the rest of the country that this can be done, that science and facts will prevail to make sound laws,” he told USA Today.

But not everyone in California is on board with the new bill.

Actor Jim Carrey took to Twitter on Tuesday with more than half a dozen tweets putting down Gov. Brown and calling him a “corporate fascist.”

Selma Blair also added: “Parental choice is our right. Most vaccinate. Let us choose.”

But according to Dr. Paul Offit, the chief of the division of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, this should not be a parental choice.

“Parents feel like it’s their right to have the choice to vaccinate or not vaccinate their children,” he tells PEOPLE. “But it’s not their right. It’s about keeping people safe and not spreading infectious diseases.”

He also says there is “absolutely no connection between vaccines causing autism,” a claim that some people have made.

“There is actually evidence showing that you’re not at greater risk for autism if you get the vaccine, ” he says. “The people who are stepping up to the podium to speak out against this law or vaccines in general are not basing their argument off of any facts.”

Dr. Offit adds that this specific measles outbreak only gained attention because it was in a public and popular space.

“People like Jim Carrey are saying there is this massive international conspiracy to hide the truth,” he says. “And the more he and others feel marginalized, the more they will rant. But people need to just look at the facts and remember at the end of the day, getting vaccinated plays a huge role in keeping people healthy and safe. California made the right decision.”