Privacy Risks of New Vaccination Bill

With crucial votes due soon on a bill to make it more difficult for parents to get vaccine exemptions for their children, opponents are emphasizing a different criticism of the measure. Instead of continuing to focus on vaccine safety, they say one of its provisions is an ominous and unreasonable invasion of privacy.

Most of the attention paid to Senate Bill 276, by state Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, has dealt with its broad parameters. It would require the state Department of Public Health to review all vaccine exemptions at individual schools if fewer than 95 percent of students are immunized. That’s the minimum percentage that public health officials say is necessary for “herd immunity” from infectious diseases. The department would also investigate doctors who issue five or more exemptions in a year.

But Pan’s bill also requires parents seeking exemptions to provide their children’s medical records if public health officials choose to investigate whether exemptions were properly provided. A recent San Francisco Chronicle story noted how much this galled some parents.

“Who’s to say they won’t use that information for something else in the future?” Allison Serrao, an Orange County mother of three, told the newspaper. “It’s really scary to me as a parent. It crosses a lot of lines.”

‘Loophole’ blamed for shielding doctors

Supporters of the bill note that the state already deals with confidential medical records – such as by tracking sexually transmitted diseases – without problems. Some see the privacy complaints as an attempt to preserve what they consider a “loophole” that has let doctors who issued dubious exemptions off the hook.

That’s because under the 2014 law, also introduced by Pan, that ended “personal belief” exemptions – approved after a measles outbreak that began at Disneyland – parents can impede investigations. They can refuse to answer questions from investigators and decline to allow release of their children’s medical records.

In 2017, the Los Angeles Times reported on the phenomenon of scores of doctors being accused of authorizing invalid medical exemptions but almost never being punished.

As California Healthline reported last month, the state can sue for access to doctors’ medical records. This year, the state Department of Consumer Affairs – which oversees the California Medical Board – has sued to obtain records from two physicians in the Santa Rosa area and two in Sacramento.

Only one of nearly 200 complaints upheld

But such actions are relatively rare. As of early August, only one state physician out of the nearly 200 accused of wrongly writing exemptions over the last four years has faced sanctions, according to the Chronicle. And the only reason that officials were able to build a case against Dana Point pediatrician Bob Sears was because one of the parents of a child he gave an exemption to objected to the decision and provided investigators with medical records. That led to Sears being put on probation by the Medical Board in 2008.

Pan’s bill was approved 24-10 by the state Senate on May 22. In the Assembly, the bill was weakened after Gov. Gavin Newsom questioned whether it would set up an unwieldy bureaucracy. The modified version of SB276 passed the Assembly Health Committee 9-2 on June 20.

To become law, the modified bill must pass both the full Assembly and the Senate by Sept. 13, when the current legislative session ends. 

The vaccine fight is playing out as U.S. public health authorities struggle with measles outbreaks in New York and Washington states. The problem is even more severe in nations as varied as Italy, Israel and the Philippines. Worldwide, there has been a 300percent increase in measles cases since last year.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

California Losing Ground Despite Vaccination Crackdown

Four years into a crackdown on high numbers of California students going unvaccinated because of claimed concerns over vaccine risks, new statisticsfrom the 2018-2019 school year show that 10 percent or more of the students in 117 kindergartens and 5 percent or more of those at 1,500 other kindergartens do not have their required shots. But these students are able to attend school because their parents have succeeded in obtaining medical exemptions.

After a new law by Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, was enacted in 2015 that ended personal belief exemptions from vaccinations, the number of vaccinated kindergartners increased to above 95 percent on average. That’s the level seen as creating “herd immunity” from infectious diseases. This was treated as a success story by public health officials who supported Pan’s effort to respond to a Disneyland-based measles outbreak that was California’s worst in years. They expected the vaccination rate to keep going up as public health information campaigns emphasized their importance.

But the overall kindergarten vaccination rate in the state dipped to 94.8 percent in 2018-19, and to much lower at many schools. Aware of the sharp increase in medical exemptions on questionable grounds, this led Pan and Gov. Gavin Newsom to hash out a compromise under which state public health officials would automatically review such exemptions in two circumstances: when doctors issued five or more in a school year and in schools with vaccination rates less than 95 percent.

Senate Bill 276 has passed initial votes and is expected to be enacted by session’s end in September. But authorities in the Bay Area have already begun a crackdown after a San Jose Mercury-News report found that just five doctors issued at least one-third of all vaccine exemptions in eight of the region’s school districts.

Doctors responding to parents’ ‘market demand’

Experts say that these doctors are in effect responding to “market demand.” Thousands of parents – often affluent people who are skeptical about modern medicine and interested in alternative medicine – remain eager believers in discredited theories that vaccines are responsible for autism and other early childhood medical woes. They reject the representations of public health authorities.

Meanwhile, as CalWatchdog recently reported, California is one of the states most at risk of a measles outbreak caused by the combination of both unvaccinated children and the high level of air passengers from nations around the world such as the Philippines and Italy that have had measles epidemics because vaccination rates have dropped.

Public health officials believe it is just a matter of time until California has a measles outbreak as severe as the one based in Disneyland in the winter of 2014-15, in which at least 131 infections were reported.

UCLA warns many exposed to virus at food court

“In 2019, four outbreaks linked to patients with international travel have been reported in California,” the state Department of Public Health announced last week. As of July 10, the state had 58 confirmed measles cases and the U.S. had 1,109 measles cases. The national number is nearly triple the total seen in all of 2018.

This week, officials at UCLA are on edge after confirming that an individual who used the UCLA campus food court on July 2 and July 3 was infected with measles and potentially could have exposed thousands of people. The university says employees who may have been exposed cannot return to work until they prove they’ve been vaccinated.

Measles is one of the most highly infectious viral diseases, public health officials say. Before an effective vaccine became available in 1963, it killed millions of people worldwide each year. That fell to about 110,000 a year earlier this century after vaccines became widely available even in poor nations. 

But the World Health Organization said in April that the number of deaths appears to be steadily increasing worldwide since 2017, the last year for which full statistics were available.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Air travel a major threat in spread of measles in California

The state Legislature’s push to tighten up vaccine requirements for K-12 students took a step forward last week even as public health officials acknowledged a British medical study that said travelers to the U.S. from nations with measles outbreaks were a major threat – not just unvaccinated children.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee voted 9-2 with four abstentions for a compromise version of Senate Bill 276, by state Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento. It would require state health experts to examine medical vaccine exemptions coming from doctors who had issued five or more exemptions in a school year or from schools which had lower than the 95 percent vaccination rate seen as necessary to promote “herd immunity” in communities.

Pan, a physician, had weakened the bill at the behest of Gov. Gavin Newsom, who said that the original version that had already won state Senate approval was overly intrusive and bureaucratic. It would have required all medical exemptions to be examined by state officials. Pan had introduced the measure in response to medical exemptions going up by more than 400 percent for incoming kindergartners after personal belief exemptions were banned in 2016.

But a recent study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal suggests that state actions alone can’t protect residents in an era in which measles and other infectious diseases are surging around the world due to both vaccine skepticism and poor public health programs in First World nations.

3 California counties at high risk

The study used patterns of international travel in and out of the U.S. to determine which were the 25 counties most at risk of a measles outbreak in 2019. Cook County, Illinois – home to O’Hare Airport – was first. Three California counties made the list. Los Angeles County was second; San Mateo County (home to San Francisco International Airport) was 19th; and San Diego County was 25th.

One of the authors of The Lancet study – Johns Hopkins professor Lauren Gardner – told the Los Angeles Times that California’s vulnerability was inevitable in an era of mass air travel. “The places, in particular in California … are really high on the list mainly because of the sheer volume of travelers,” Gardner said. “It’s not just the fact that there are big airports, but those airports have a lot of incoming routes from countries having ongoing measles outbreaks.”

The Philippines has had a severe measles outbreak since February, with the most recent estimates of cases topping 33,000 – including nearly 500 deaths. The U.S. State Department and international health agencies also cite outbreaks in the Ukraine, Italy and Israel.

As of June 13, the U.S. had 1,044 confirmed measles cases this year, the most in a single year since 1992. The worst outbreaks have been in the New York City metro area and in southern Washington state, just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon.

While a 2014 outbreak traced to Disneyland in Orange County fueled the rise of concern about the renewed measles threat in the United States, California has not seen as severe an outbreak since then.

But researchers for The Lancet believe it is just a matter of time.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Amendments end Gov. Newsom’s unease on vaccine bill

Amendments to an emotionally fraught bill designed to crack down on fraudulent vaccine exemptions change the legislation’s focus just two days before a key Assembly committee hearing.

The bill’s author, Sen. Richard Pan, negotiated the amendments after Gov. Gavin Newsom expressed reservations about shifting too much power to state bureaucrats. He now says he’ll sign it.

Among the changes:

— Instead of every medical exemption, state health officials would target their reviews to doctors who issue five or more exemptions in a year, and to exemptions at schools where the vaccination rate dips below 95%. …

Click here tor read the full article from the Associated Press

Lawsuit challenges California’s new vaccine requirements


As reported by the Associated Press:

A lawsuit has been filed seeking to overturn California’s strict new law requiring mandatory vaccines for school children.

The suit filed by a group of parents and the nonprofit Education 4 All was filed in San Diego federal court on Friday, the same day the new law took effect.

It says that the law violates the children’s right to an education as guaranteed under California’s constitution, and asks for a judge to suspend the law while the suit plays out.

The law “has made second class citizens out of children who for very compelling reasons are not vaccinated” according to federal regulations, plaintiff’s attorney Robert T. Moxley said in a statement. “We are hoping the court will grant us an injunction while the judicial process takes place to see if this law is constitutional, which it most certainly does not seem to be.”

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the vaccine measure, SB277, into law last year amid fierce opposition from …

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New California laws 2016: What to expect in the new year


As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

Like bubbles ascending a champagne flute, a bevy of recently passed California policies will float to the surface and take effect this Jan. 1. Here’s a review of some of the major items.

Vaccines

One of 2015’s fiercest fights was over SB 277, which was introduced in the wake of a measles outbreak at Disneyland and requires full vaccination for most children to enroll in school. Schools will begin vetting students to ensure they have their shots in July, before the 2016-2017 school year begins.

Search warrants

Arguing our privacy laws lag behind our technology, lawmakers passed SB 178 to require search warrants before law enforcement can obtain your emails, text messages, Internet search history and other digital data.

Ballot fees

Thinking of filing a ballot initiative? You’ll need more cash. …

Click here to read the full article

Referendum to Restore Personal Choice in Vaccinations Dies

vaccine2The drive to restore California’s vaccination exemptions through the state referendum process has failed.

At stake was Senate Bill 277, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on a wave of concern that “herd immunity” among California children was compromised by a growing anti-vaccination trend. Coauthored by state Sens. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, and Ben Allen, D-Redondo Beach, SB277 “will require all children entering kindergarten to be vaccinated unless a doctor certifies that a child has a medical condition, such as allergies, preventing it,” as the Los Angeles Daily News summarized the law.

Missing the mark

After submitting signatures gathered in the hopes of meeting the legal threshold of adequate public support, organizers behind the would-be measure discovered that their numbers had fallen short: “They turned in some 228,000 signatures on petitions for a referendum to overturn the measure, far short of the number needed to qualify it for next year’s ballot,” as the Los Angeles Times reported. “Referendum supporters needed the signatures of 365,880 registered voters by Monday to place the measure before state voters in November 2016.”

Efforts to meet the requirements were bedeviled by the shoestring character of the operation. “While the campaign deployed paid signature gatherers in the final stretch before the deadline, it was largely a volunteer effort,” according to the Sacramento Bee, “a tough task given that successful initiative campaigns typically cost millions of dollars.”

Citing internal documentation, the Bee noted that some California counties weren’t represented at all in the final tally. “Organizers in six counties did not submit any signatures by the deadline, according to an initial survey of raw data from the California secretary of state’s office. While the organizers’ spreadsheet contains estimates for large population centers like Orange County, Los Angeles County and Riverside County, they did not have an estimate for 16 counties in addition to the six the secretary of state said did not submit signatures,” the paper reported.

Raising allegations

vaccination cartoonBut one of the foremost political figures behind the movement to restore the personal belief exemption to mandatory child vaccinations alleged that the signature-gathering effort had fallen victim to foul play. “The leading proponent of the effort, former Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, said in an email Monday that volunteers were coerced and threatened while collecting signatures,” according to the Associated Press. “Donnelly did not return repeated messages inquiring about the effort’s chances but said in his email that he was proud of the volunteers who worked on the campaign ‘whatever the outcome is.’” Donnelly said the push “was sabotaged from without and within by powerful forces from its very inception, but we never gave up and we never gave in.”

Although Donnelly had gained notoriety of late as an outspoken gubernatorial candidate, his charges have yet to faze supporters of the stringent vaccination mandate. In remarks to KOVR Sacramento, Pan said he supported “the right to pursue a referendum,” according to the Daily News. But Pan also told reporters he was “sure the voters of California are not interested in letting a privileged few take away the rights of all Californians to be safe from preventable disease,” the AP noted.

Plan B

As the deadline for submitting signatures neared, some anti-vaccination activists created what could be a second opportunity to accomplish objectives similar to the hoped-for referendum. In a recent message posted to Facebook, the group announced that they had filed for a so-called Parental Rights Constitutional Amendment Initiative. “The measure was filed now in part because the filing fee for initiatives is going up Jan. 1 from $200 to $2,000,” the post said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Supporters have six months to collect signatures for an initiative, far longer than 90 days provided for a referendum.”

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

CARTOON: Death of Vaccination Referendum


vaccination cartoon

Vaxxing Debate Plays on Emotion

From the San Diego Union-Tribune:

The California Capitol often is a magnet for sign-toting protesters, T-shirt-wearing activists who deliver petitions to legislators’ offices, and members of interest groups who travel to this “temple of democracy” to make their voices heard. Rarely, though, are such routine activities accompanied by displays of real passion.

But this year’s debate over SB 277, which would eliminate personal-belief vaccination exemptions for children attending public or private child care and schools, has sparked a debate that’s far testier than the typical ones that focus on budget, regulatory and even tax matters.

One side depicts foes as backwoods anti-vaxxers who believe the Earth is flat, while the other depicts supporters as enemies of religious freedom and tools of the pharmaceutical industry. The high drama is easier to understand given it involves public health, people’s deeply held convictions — and, most important, their children.

Few people question the value of vaccines, which … 

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Mandatory Vaccination Bill Quickly Advancing Through Legislature

vaccine2After a fractious debate, the California Senate passed a revised draft of the controversial bill that would largely eliminate the state’s religious and personal belief exemptions for child inoculation. With the bill on a likely track for passage in the Assembly, momentum has begun to gather for even more muscular pro-vaccine legislation.

Sweeping changes

As CalWatchdog.com previously reported, state Sens. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, and Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, had to rewrite key passages of the bill’s language in order to head off potential constitutional challenges to its treatment of kids without the specified vaccinations.

The bulk of the original bill remained intact, however, sweeping away California’s longstanding and generous rules permitting parents to keep their children vaccine-free. “Several Republican senators tried to stall the bill by introducing a series of amendments that would have reinserted the religious exemption and required labeling of vaccine ingredients,” according to the Sacramento Bee. But Democrats moved swiftly to shut them down.

For some critics, barring unvaccinated children from public school remained a bone of contention. “It’s clear that a large portion of concerned parents will likely withhold their children from public schools because of their concerns or lack of comfort from the vaccination process,” said GOP state Sen. John Moorlach, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

But some carveouts were set to remain. “The legislation only addresses families that will soon enroll their children in school,” as Newsweek observed. “Under the proposed law, children who aren’t currently immunized are not required to get vaccinated until seventh grade. The law still allows families to opt out due to medical reasons, such as a history of allergies to vaccines and inherited or acquired immune disorders or deficiencies.”

The so-called grandfather clause represented a major concession to parents’ groups, which had succeeded in stalling Pan and Allen’s legislation once before. Now, as the San Jose Mercury News reported, “more than 13,000 children who have had no vaccinations by first grade won’t have to get their shots until they enter seventh grade. And nearly 10,000 seventh-graders who today aren’t fully vaccinated may be able to avoid future shots because the state does not always require them after that grade.”

Regulatory momentum

Despite the lenience built into the advancing legislation, the pro-vaccine logic that propelled it has already increased momentum for an even more assertive approach to enforcing inoculation.

As KQED News has noted, “two other vaccine-related bills are making their way through the Legislature a bit more quietly. One would require preschool and child care workers to have certain vaccinations; another seeks to improve vaccination rates for 2-year-olds.”

“If SB792 becomes law, California will be the first state in the country to require that all preschool and child care workers be immunized against measles, pertussis and the flu.”

Supporters of the ratcheted-up regulation sought to head off more controversy by downplaying the invasiveness and inconvenience of their approach. “We certainly aren’t out to arrest people who aren’t vaccinated,” said Kat DeBurgh, executive director of the Health Officers Association of California, a group that sponsored SB792. “We wanted to make this just like any other violation of code that an inspector would look for. If you don’t remediate, then there is a fine to the day care center.”

At the same time, pro-vaccination analysts have speculated that the Golden State will save money the more it ensures vaccination. Referring to a recent study showing that Iowa’s health care spending would double if it added a personal belief exemption, Tara Haelle suggested that California’s “health care cost savings would be far more substantial” once its exemption was eliminated, although, she conceded, “no thorough analyses are currently available.”

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com