New California law bans harassment at vaccination sites, raises free speech concerns 

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A new California law making harassment at vaccination sites a misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine and/or six months in jail is raising concerns over violations of free speech protections, according to Kaiser Health Network.

Modeled after buffer zones protecting patients getting abortions, the legislation defines harassment as getting within 30 feet of a patient who is within 100 feet of an entrance to a vaccination site or waiting in their car to get a vaccine, in order to hand out a leaflet, display a sign, protest or engage in any education or sidewalk counseling.

The law, signed Oct. 8 by Gov. Gavin Newsom, was amended to remove a clause that experts said made it unconstitutional, but some experts say it still violates the First Amendment. 

"It sweeps up broad activities that are protected by the First Amendment and defines them as harassing," David Snyder, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, told Kaiser. "That problem hasn’t changed at all."

Other experts say it's more necessary than ever. 

"Our biggest concern is when children are getting vaccinated," said Catherine Flores Martin, executive director of the California Immunization Coalition. "Some of these people feel like they need to protest, and that’s scary and extremely inappropriate."

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