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Health Highlights: June 10, 2015

California's Controversial Student Vaccination Bill Moves Ahead Political Battle Over Birth Control Pill Access Health Warnings for Sugary Drink Ads Approved in San Francisco NYC May Introduce High Salt Warnings on Restaurant Menus

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

California's Controversial Student Vaccination Bill Moves Ahead

A controversial bill mandating that schoolchildren be vaccinated was passed Tuesday by the health committee of the California State Assembly.

The measure was passed 12-6, with one lawmaker abstaining. It now goes to the full Assembly, the Associated Press reported.

The bill would scrap the personal belief exemption that permits parents to send unvaccinated children to school. Those children would have to be home-schooled. Students who can't receive vaccinations due to medical conditions would still be allowed to attend school.

Lawmakers took action after a recent measles outbreak at Disneyland sickened more than 100 people in the United States and Mexico. If the bill becomes law, California would the the third state, along with Mississippi and West Virginia, to have such strict vaccination rules, the AP reported.

Opponents of the bill argue they should have the freedom to decide what's best for their child, and that the measure would unfairly deny some students a public education.

The bill "is about freedom," said bill co-author Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, the AP reported. "Freedom from deadly, crippling contagions that are now preventable through the science of vaccination."

The measure would likely boost vaccination rates, according to some experts.

Gov. Jerry Brown has not revealed his position on the bill. Previously, Brown's spokesman Evan Westrup said the governor believes vaccinations are "profoundly important," the AP reported.


Political Battle Over Birth Control Pill Access

Over-the-counter access to birth control pills is the focus of a Congressional fight between Democrats and Republicans.

A group of Republicans introduced a bill that would encourage drug makers to seek Food and Drug Administration permission to sell routine-use birth control pills over the counter, rather than requiring a prescription, CBS News reported.

The bill would also amend the Affordable Care Act to allow women to use health, medical and flexible savings accounts to buy over-the-counter birth control pills.

However, the act already requires insurers to pay for birth control pills, and the Republican bill would actually make birth control pills more expensive, according to the Democrats.

"If it's too expensive, doesn't matter how easy it is to get -- it might as well be on the moon," Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington said via Twitter, CBS News reported.

Murray introduced a bill that would require any over-the-counter daily birth control pill to be covered by health insurance.


Health Warnings for Sugary Drink Ads Approved in San Francisco

Health warnings on ads for sugary drinks were approved Tuesday by San Francisco supervisors in a unanimous vote.

If the measure receives second approval from the Board of Supervisors next week and is not vetoed by the mayor, it's believed that San Francisco would be the first in the United States to require such a warning, Fox News reported.

The warning on billboards and other print ads within city limits would read: "WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. This is a message from the City and County of San Francisco." The warning would not be required on ads appearing in newspapers, circulars, broadcast outlets or the online.

Bottles and cans of soda and other sugary drinks would not have to carry the warning, Fox News reported.


NYC May Introduce High Salt Warnings on Restaurant Menus

A proposal to require chain restaurants to warn customers about dishes that are high in salt was introduced by New York City's Health Department at a Board of Health meeting Wednesday.

If the proposal is passed, chain restaurants would have to display a salt-shaker-like symbol next to menu items that contain more than the recommended daily limit of 2,300 milligrams of sodium, or about 1 teaspoon of salt, the Associated Press reported.

If the Board of Health decides to consider the proposal, a final vote could be held as soon as September and the rule could be in place by December.

The regulation would be the first of its kind for an American city, the AP reported.

New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Travis Bassett said the rule would provide restaurant customers with important information. Public health advocates praised the proposal, salt producers panned it, and some restaurateurs said it would add to an already heavy burden of bureaucracy.

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