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

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

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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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

Vaccine Critics Get Defensive Over Measles

As reported by Jack Healy and Michael Paulson of the New York Times:

Their children have been sent home from school. Their families are barred from birthday parties and neighborhood play dates. Online, people call them negligent and criminal.

And as officials in 14 states grapple to contain a spreading measles outbreak that began near here at Disneyland, the parents at the heart of America’s anti-vaccine movement are being blamed for incubating an otherwise preventable public-health crisis.

Measles anxiety rippled thousands of miles beyond its center last week as officials scrambled to contain a wider spread of the highly contagious disease – one that America declared vanquished 15 years ago, before a statistically significant number of parents started refusing to vaccinate their children. … 

Read the full story here