Anti-vaccine protesters get assurances from Jennifer Siebel Newsom during impromptu chat

California First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, center, the wife of Gov. Gavin Newsom, speaks at an event on April 1, 2019, in Sacramento.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

California First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom told anti-vaccine protesters rallying outside her Sacramento-area home that her husband’s administration is looking into their concerns about California’s new laws limiting who can be exempted from shots required for school, while also saying she believes there needs to be more dialogue about whether some immunizations are unnecessary.

In a video taken Monday, Siebel Newsom is seen talking with the protesters about the vaccine laws signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year before she asks that they not post the video online.

“I think there needs to be more conversation around spreading out vaccines, around only giving children the vaccines that are most essential,” Siebel Newsom says in a portion of the short video posted on the Facebook page of one of the protesters.

Before that comment, Siebel Newsom said the head of the California Health and Human Services Agency, Dr. Mark Ghaly, who oversees the public health department tasked with implementing the new laws, is “talking to integrative and functional medicine doctors who understand this.” A spokesman for the governor said the laws signed by Newsom last year are the official position of the administration.

Parents who oppose vaccines have lobbied Siebel Newsom since last year, pleading outside the governor’s office in the state Capitol for her to intervene and help kill Senate Bill 276 by state Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento). That bill created state oversight of vaccine exemptions issued by doctors for medical reasons after lawmakers alleged a handful of physicians were improperly granting waivers to assuage anti-vaccine parents. Newsom twice expressed concerns with the bill before last-minute changes were negotiated and another bill was introduced, Senate Bill 714, which supporters said weakened the overall impact of the legislation.

During the negotiations over the bills, Siebel Newsom took meetings with protesters, but would not comment publicly about her position on the legislation.

Newsom signed both bills into law, which went into effect in January, although a significant portion of the legislation will not be implemented until 2021. Protesters of the new laws have continued to hold small rallies, including last month outside a fundraiser attended by Pan. On Monday, they posted pictures while protesting outside the gates to the Newsoms’ home.


The woman who posted the video wrote that Siebel Newsom talked with the group for 30 minutes.

In the video, Siebel Newsom urged protesters to trust the new laws. The group has said it is concerned that the laws would erode the doctor-patient relationship by allowing the state’s public health department to determine whether a medical exemption is invalid.

“You have to trust,” she said. “If your child has a sensitivity or a vulnerability, then your doctors can still go through the process.”

Siebel Newsom begins to say that “I’ve been trying to have dialogue internally” before stopping to say, “I don’t really want you guys to post this.”