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. …

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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

California Senate OKs controversial school vaccine bill

As reported by the Associated Press:

State senators passed a bill Thursday aimed at increasing California’s school immunization rates after a measles outbreak at Disneyland last year.

The bill was approved on a 25-10 vote after a series of emotional hearings this year at which opponents called for preserving parental rights on the matter.

The measure would prohibit parents from seeking vaccine exemptions for their children because of religious or personal beliefs.

The bill, which now goes to the Assembly, would make…

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CARTOON: CA political apathy

Voter apathy

Wolverton, Cagle Cartoons

Proposed Bill Will Force Parents to Choose: Vaccinate or Homeschool

The measles outbreak has injected the California Legislature with a new urgency in dealing with vaccine issues. First up is a new bill, as yet without a number, by state Sens. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, and Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, the latter a pediatrician.

According to Pan’s website, the bill “will repeal the personal belief exemption that currently allows parents to effectively opt their child out of vaccines in our schools.” Under the exemption, “a parent may choose to opt their child out of school vaccine requirements that bi-partisan legislative majorities passed to protect students.”

As the Sacramento Bee reported, the vaccination issue has roiled California in unexpected ways, with “anti-vaxxers” cutting across familiar ideological and political categories. “I’m a registered Democrat, but that could possibly change,” one parent told the paper. “I could never be with a party that mandates, and takes away freedom from people.”

But Republicans have been wary of championing residents seen as directly responsible for the outbreak of major diseases. Some GOP officeholders in Sacramento have begun to reverse their earlier support of California’s relatively broad personal belief exemption, which extends beyond a carveout for religious beliefs. Others have reaffirmed a measured commitment to both vaccination and parental choice.

According to the Los Angeles Times, however, the bill would nevertheless extend some political cover to conservatives whose constituents favor close parental control of medical choices:

“The legislation does not address children who are completely home-schooled. It would still allow children to avoid vaccination for medical reasons including allergic responses and weak immune systems. The mandate only applies to children attending public or private schools.”

Democratic divisions

Perhaps surprisingly, Republicans may have already felt the worst of the political awkwardness — while Democrats face more internal disagreement. As the Wall Street Journal reported, “Dr. Pan wrote a 2012 law that went into effect last year that required a consultation with a health care practitioner to obtain the personal belief exemption. Gov. Jerry Brown added an exemption based on religious beliefs upon signing that law.”

Now, Brown’s office has indicated the governor is open to erasing the personal belief exemption.

Both California’s U.S. Senators, Democrats Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, also have urged their fellow party members to consider eliminating the religious-belief exemption. In a letter to California Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley and other officials, the senators set out an uncompromising position:

“California’s current law allows two options for parents to opt out of vaccine requirements for school and daycare: they must either make this decision with the aid of a health professional, or they can simply check a box claiming that they have religious objections to medical care. We think both options are flawed, and oppose even the notion of a medical professional assisting to waive a vaccine requirement unless there is a medical reason, such as an immune deficiency.”

What’s more, Boxer and Feinstein went after parents who sought modified or delayed vaccination schedules even for preschool children — a move that could unsettle the swift but fragile bipartisan consensus forming around the Pan-Allen bill.

As BuzzFeed reported, the response among Democrats has not been as crisp and confident as Boxer and Feinstein might have hoped:

“Several liberal lawmakers unequivocally said parents should vaccinate their kids. But when pressed further on the state laws that allow parents to skip vaccinating their children if they have a medical, religious, or ‘personal belief’ reason not to do so, their answers became less clear.”

Nationally prominent California Democrats, from Rep. Maxine Waters to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, couched their language in a way that steered clear of Boxer and Feinstein’s vaccination absolutism.

The office of California Attorney General Kamala Harris — who hopes to replace Boxer in the Senate — declined to answer any questions about Harris’s own stance.

Originally published on CalWatchdog.com

Measles Return: Lots Of Blame To Go Around

San Diego Union -Tribune editorial:

In 2000, the U.S. public health community finally realized the goal set in 1978 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: The nation went a full year without a documented case of measles.

This was a staggering achievement. Before 1963, when a vaccination to treat measles became broadly available in the U.S., the highly infectious disease was so widespread that it was practically a rite of childhood. Until then, measles routinely killed hundreds of Americans each year and afflicted thousands with encephalitis.

Now each day brings fresh reminders that measles is again part of American life. The CDC’s website says that as of Jan. 30, 102 people in 14 states had contracted measles in an outbreak traced to an infected person’s visit to Disneyland. The outbreak’s epicenter is in California, where state health officials reported an ominous 68 percent surge in cases over the past two weeks.

Read the full editorial here