I’ve been involved with legislation over the past 20 years in my two previous capacities. But, the bill that has received the most attention in the Capitol this year is SB 277 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 277 — April 30, 2015 April 30, 2015 John Moorlach).
There may be two lessons to be learned from Sacramento’s insistence in mandating that California residents be forced to take a regimen of numerous vaccines. The first lesson is those who feel that their civil rights and liberties are being trampled on will react. Three weeks ago there were some two thousand taxpayers here in the Capitol to testify against the bill. They came from every corner of the state, including Orange County. Let’s hope they continue to enjoy the role of activists.
The second is that, with a few exceptions, this bill went along party lines. Consequently, the taxpayers now know who is forcing them to do certain things or face severe consequences. Absolute control by a governing body is the definition of totalitarianism. So, I didn’t hesitate to call it as such. Expect more of the same in the years to come and continue to stay vigilant.
The Governor signed the bill rather quickly and it had the Capitol spinning yesterday. City News Service’s story was picked up by MyNewsLA.com, the Times of San Diego, and the Lake Forest Patch in the first piece below. The second piece is from the front-page story in the OC Register.
On a different note, it was an honor to recognize another business in the 37th Senatorial District for their support of a summer camp program for abused children. I was involved in summer youth camp programs early in my life and career and appreciate those who see its importance. The Daily Pilot covers it in the third piece below.
New law mandates vaccinations for kids, opponents claim ‘totalitarianism’
Despite charges of ‘totalitarianism’ from some opponents, almost all school children in the Southland and across California will be required to be vaccinated against diseases such as measles and whooping cough under legislation signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.
The controversial measure was co-sponsored by a Democratic state senator from Santa Monica, Ben Allen. Another co-sponsor was Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento. Pan is also a pediatrician. The legislation was prompted in part by an outbreak of measles traced to Disneyland that began in late December and ultimately spread to more than 130 people across the state. Cases were also reported in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Oregon, Utah and Washington state.
The legislation eliminates vaccination exemptions based on religious or personal beliefs. It 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.
“I want to thank all of the parents, families and my colleagues and Governor Brown for their advocacy and thoughtful deliberation of this legislation,” said Allen, former president of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board. “Today is a good day for California.”
Brown, in a bill-signing message sent to the state Senate, acknowledged there was opposition to the bill, but said children’s health is important to protect.
“The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infection and dangerous diseases,” Brown wrote in his message. “While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.”
Brown noted that the legislation exempts children from immunizations if there are “circumstances, including but not limited to, family medical history for which the physician does not recommend immunization.”
Los Angeles Unified School District officials said last week they supported the bill’s intent of “boosting vaccination rates through the state,” adding that the requirement “will ensure a safer and healthier environment for our schools.”
Opponents criticized the bill as infringing on the rights of parents to make medical decisions for their children. Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com, said it “denies parents the right to exempt genetically susceptible brothers and sisters of vaccine-injured children, denies parents a religious exemption and denies conscientious objectors a public-school education.”
Although the Disneyland outbreak happened in Orange County, many of the county’s lawmakers opposed the legislation.
Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Tustin, who represents Anaheim, said he supports vaccination as a general rule, but he voted against the legislation because he felt it did too much to curtail choice among parents.
“I am a proponent of vaccines and I’ve got my kids vaccinated,” Wagner told City News Service. “I think by and large it’s the right thing to do from a medical and public health standpoint. However, there are people who have very legitimate concerns that are either religious or with their own particular children in the timing of the vaccines. I think it’s bad precedent to have the government run roughshod over those concerns, so my vote was to err on the side of freedom and liberty and parental choice.”
Assemblyman Tom Daly, D-Anaheim, said, however, the bill represents a “balanced approach.”
Daly said he voted for the bill, “after careful consideration of the views of my constituents, many of whom contacted my capitol and district offices, and of recent amendments that had been made to the bill. … It protects the overwhelming number of children in my district who are vaccinated. And it protects those who, based on the assessment of their doctors, cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.”
Sen. John Moorlach, R-Irvine, said he also does not oppose vaccinations in principle, but said he was concerned after hearing appeals from mothers who claimed their children were disabled or permanently injured by a shot.
“I’m not anti-vaccination. I’m just saying make sure the mothers are comfortable. Let them own the position. Once they understand it and once they’re convinced there’s no reactions” then they will support it, Moorlach told CNS. “I come from a place of freedom and liberty, and to be told I have to do something or face dire consequences, it just smacks of totalitarianism.”
Moorlach also said he has concerns about “big pharmaceutical” companies having an undue influence on the debate.
“When I was a kid it was three shots, then when my kids were growing up it was eight shots,” Moorlach said.
Moorlach said he was especially moved by the anecdote from Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Redding, who recounted on the Senate floor how his daughter suffered a frightening reaction to a vaccination.
“We took her in for shots and she had a seizure that night and we had to rush her into a hospital where they stabilized her and did an MRI” and found the coating around the brain had separated, Gaines told City News Service. “The doctors said we don’t want your child to have any more vaccinations for 10 years, so we were very careful with spreading those out. She’s vaccinated — she’s 13 now — so we had to take a very slow approach.”
Sen. Patricia Bates, R-San Juan Capistrano, said she supports vaccinations but opposed the bill.
“While the bill grandfathers in non-vaccinated children currently attending public schools, it does not apply to their younger siblings who have yet to enter school,” she wrote in a letter to constituents. “This would force parents to either violate their personal beliefs or take them out of public school.
“Simply put, SB 277 does not go far enough to ensure that non- vaccinated children receive equal access to the high quality public education that the California Constitution guarantees and therefore I cannot support it.”
Interim Los Angeles County Health Officer Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser countered that the recent measles outbreak “highlights the importance” of ensuring as many people as possible get vaccinated.
“Measles remains a serious health threat that is present in many parts of the world,” he said. “Attaining the highest vaccination rates possible in Los Angeles County will assure that our children and all residents are safe in the event that additional cases are imported in the future.”
County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl hailed the bill, saying it will protect “our children and our communities from a host of entirely preventable communicable diseases.”
Leah Russin, co-founder of Vaccinate California, an advocacy group that pushed for the legislation, said parents can now “breathe a sigh of relief knowing our children and others will be better protected from preventative diseases.”
Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, said vaccination rates have dropped in schools in recent years, raising the risk of disease outbreaks.
“The bill protects the health of our children and our communities, especially those too young or too ill to receive vaccines,” Torlakson said. “The bill protects against the outbreaks of debilitating, crippling and costly preventable diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella and chicken pox. It will help keep students healthy so they can attend school, learn and succeed.”
— City News Service
After Disneyland measles outbreak in December, Gov. Jerry Brown signs one of stricter vaccine laws in the U.S.
BY JENNA CHANDLER
With a declaration that the science on vaccines is “clear,” Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed a strict and controversial law aimed at boosting immunization rates in California following a measles outbreak that was ignited at Disneyland Resort.
The new law – which was hotly debated in the Legislature, drawing busloads of protesting parents from across the state – will make it harder for parents to dodge vaccines for children enrolled in public and private school.
“The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases,” Brown said in signing the measure, Senate Bill 277.
“While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.”
Two options will remain for children who are unvaccinated and partially vaccinated to attend private or public school. The unvaccinated may obtain medical waivers; the partially vaccinated may enroll as conditional entrants, meaning they are behind on their shots but intend to get them.
The new law takes effect in the 2016-2017 school year, but students’ immunization records will be checked only when they enroll in kindergarten and seventh grade and when they enroll in a new school.
So an unvaccinated first-grader who remains in the same school would have until seventh grade to catch up, and an unvaccinated eighth-grader could finish high school without getting vaccinated, unless switching schools.
With the Democratic governor’s signature, California now wields one of the toughest vaccine laws in the country.
“This is a great milestone,” said Dr. Marnie Baker, a pediatrician and Irvine mother whose 8-year-old son has a weakened immune system because of a heart transplant and relies on those around him to be vaccinated.
She said her colleagues at MemorialCare Health System greeted the news enthusiastically.
“It’s been a lot of, ‘Hurrahs!’” she said.
California was among 20 states that allowed for personal belief exemptions and among 48 that allowed for religious exemptions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. California now joins only two other states – Mississippi and West Virginia – in allowing only medical exemptions.
The tougher laws work, experts say, pointing to Mississippi, which has the highest rate – 99 percent – of vaccinated kindergartners in the country. West Virginia isn’t far behind.
Dr. Bob Sears, a Capistrano Beach-based pediatrician and a proponent of delayed vaccine schedules, said parents will be distrustful of a government that forces vaccinations. He expects many parents will take advantage of the option to delay vaccines or obtain medical waivers.
He and other opponents have questioned whether SB 277 would actually help contain outbreaks, pointing to the waning effectiveness of the whooping cough vaccine. For both adults and children who get the shot, high levels of protection decrease after the first two years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The governor went ahead and signed it basically operating under the general principle that vaccines are good, they save lives, and therefore any bill which makes them more mandatory should by default be a positive change for California,” said Sears.
The divisive debate about SB 277 touched on the efficacy and safety of vaccines and forced lawmakers to choose between the rights of parents who don’t believe immunizing their children is safe and the rights of parents to send their children to school without the risk of contracting diseases.
Opponents also said parents should have the right to make medical decisions for their children, and some epidemiologists said educating parents about the safety and efficacy of vaccines is a better approach than a tough mandate.
Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Glendale, said the bill won’t be effective, because unvaccinated children will still mingle with other kids outside of school, like when playing sports.
“Choosing to infringe on the right of students to attend school simply does not make sense,” he said.
Others feared a medical waiver would be difficult to obtain, particularly for siblings of children who have had severe reactions to vaccines, including seizures. Such side effects are very rare, according to public health officials.
SB 277 was introduced following an outbreak of measles at Disneyland in December. Public health officials said an infected park-goer spread the highly contagious virus to 131 people in California.
One of the earliest patients was hospitalized for three weeks with a breathing tube and mechanical ventilator, said the state’s top epidemiologist Gil Chavez. The patient – one of 20 who were hospitalized – developed multiple organ injuries, required renal dialysis, and at some points, was unresponsive.
But Sen. John Moorlach, a Republican from Costa Mesa, said the outbreak was “small” and used to “erode personal liberty and increase government meddling.” That, he said, “proves why there is no trust in the California legislative process.”
Of the 81 people in the outbreak whose vaccination status was known, 70 percent had not been vaccinated.
Last school year, about 10 percent of kindergartners in California and in Orange County were not fully up to date on their shots. Of those, about 3 percent of Orange County kindergartners obtained personal belief and religious exemptions, according to California Department of Public Health data.
But there were pockets, mostly in coastal South Orange County, where the rates of unvaccinated children are much higher, reaching 62 percent at Journey School in Aliso Viejo. These pockets, researchers have found, fuel outbreaks.
As much as 95 percent of a community’s population needs to be vaccinated in order to contain outbreaks, according to public health officials.
In the wake of the recent measles outbreak and with all of the attention on SB 277, Baker, the mother and MemorialCare pediatrician, said a growing number of her patients who were hesitant about vaccines have brought their children up to date on their shots.
“I think that some parents’ decision not to vaccinate was perhaps just based on a little bit of fear or misinformation,” she said.
Around Town: Karate studio owners honored for charity work
Bob and Barbara White, co-owners of Bob White’s Karate Studio in Costa Mesa, recently received a proclamation from state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa).
The couple were credited for their years of fundraising efforts for Royal Family Kids, a nonprofit that aids abused, neglected and abandoned children. The Whites, who received the proclamation Friday, also organize fundraising karate and golf tournaments.
"We are now working with karate studios all over the world to get them involved," Bob White said in an email. "Child abuse is everywhere, and the more we can do to spread the good work Royal Family Kids does, we want to do."
This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District.
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