Protesters shut down California's legislature as bills tighten vaccine exemptions

Vivian Ho in San Francisco
Photograph: Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Activists shut down both chambers of the California state legislature with protests and chanting against a set of bills seeking to tighten school vaccine exemptions.

Protesters on Monday took over the halls of the state capitol building, chanted in the halls and demonstrated outside of the office of the California governor, Gavin Newsom, but they were unable to prevent the legislation from passing or Newsom from signing the bills into law.

Related: The California senator fighting for the strictest vaccination laws in the US

The new bills restrict medical exemptions for school vaccinations, further tightening California’s already strict vaccination regulations.

“As the latest measles outbreak threatens the country’s elimination status, California acted to keep children safe at school by abolishing non-medical exemptions,” Senator Richard Pan, the author of the bill, said in a statement.

The bills closed a loophole in the state’s 2015 vaccine legislation, which had already eliminated religious and personal exemptions for school vaccinations. Following the passing of the 2015 rules, however, the number of medical exemptions began to increase. The new regulations create a standardized statewide medical exemption request to prevent doctors from issuing phony medical exemptions.

A version of the bills had passed both the state senate and assembly last week but was temporarily stalled when the California governor requested amendments.

Newsom reached an agreement with Pan that he would sign the bill once those amendments cleared the legislature.

Monday’s protests came weeks after Pan, who has earned a reputation for his pro-vaccination legislation, was shoved from behind by a protester near the capitol building.