Gov. Brown Signs Law Mandating Vaccinations

July 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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.

SB 277 was co-sponsored by Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, and 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, 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.”

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.”

CA Health Officials Declares Measles Outbreak Over

April 17, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The measles outbreak that state health officials traced to Disneyland and that affected 131 Californians was declared over Fridday.

“We are pleased this outbreak is over, but caution that measles can be reintroduced in California at any time when an infected person brings it to the state,” according to state health officer Dr. Karen Smith, director of the California Department of Public Health. “The best defense for protection against the highly infectious measles is vaccination.”

There were five more unrelated measles cases reported during the outbreak, officials said.

The last case of measles was confirmed March 2, prompting officials to set Friday as the date when the outbreak was considered over since there were no new cases reported.

Since Feb. 27, only three new cases were reported in the state. The most recent case was out of Los Angeles County, bringing the total there to 28, with two in Long Beach and four in Pasadena, where they have their own health departments.

Orange County stands at 35 cases and Riverside County has had eight cases. San Bernardino County has a dozen and San Diego County has 14.

Of the California cases, 40 were traced back to visitors or workers at Disneyland between Dec. 17-20, according to the state. In 30 cases, measles was passed on from someone in the house or another close relation, officials said.

Eleven people contracted the disease in a community setting such as an emergency room where someone was seeking treatment for measles, according to the state.

State officials said this morning that of the patients the state has vaccination records for, 56 did not get shots and 25 had one or more doses of the MMR vaccine, according to the state.

Patients were six weeks to 70 years old, according to state officials.

There are 173 cases reported in 17 states this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Measles cases have been reported in Washington, D.C., Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington.

The outbreaks in Illinois, Washington state and Nevada are unrelated to Disneyland, according to the CDC.

From Dec. 28 to March 6, 142 people from seven states came down with measles from the Disneyland outbreak. The states include Arizona, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Oregon, Utah and Washington state, according to the CDC.

There were 644 measles cases in 27 states, the most since measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, according to the CDC. In most cases, the victims were unvaccinated, according to the CDC.

Scientists say the measles virus in this outbreak matches one in the Philippines last year.

Measles Outbreak Renews Calls to Vaccinate Children

February 5, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles County’s interim health officer urged residents Wednesday to ensure they are vaccinated for measles, and assured parents that vaccinating their children is safe.

“Unfortunately the myths about the association between vaccination and autism persists,” Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser said. “It’s very important for people to know that there have been many scientific studies since that have completely shown that there is no association between autism and vaccinations.”

As of Wednesday, California had 99 confirmed cases of measles, including 28 in Orange County and 21 in Los Angeles County but none on any Los Angeles Unified School District campus, state and local health officials said.

“To end this outbreak we need to do more and we need help,” Gunzenhauser said. “I encourage everyone to review their vaccination status and if needed to get the vaccine now. Those of you who are in positions to make decisions about vaccine for others, review the scientific evidence, be informed about the outbreak and make a decision that’s based on evidence.”

Gunzenhauser told the county Board of Supervisors Tuesday that there is “some hope that we will get ahead of the outbreak in the near future,” citing a smaller number of cases arising from the outbreak’s second and third waves.

But he cautioned that there was “still work to be done” and said it could take weeks or months to be certain that the outbreak was in retreat.

Gunzenhauser said the key to slowing the spread of infection is to shorten the time between when a patient gets a rash and when health officials are notified and can impose quarantines and offer immunizations, he said.

Of L.A. County’s 21 confirmed cases of measles, 17 are linked to the outbreak that began at Disneyland in December, Gunzenhauser said. Nonetheless, the outbreak has had no noticeable effect on Disneyland or other Disney theme parks, according to Walt Disney Chairman & CEO Bob Iger.

“We really have not been able to discern any impact at all from that,” he said Tuesday in an interview on CNBC. “In fact, if you were to look at Disneyland, the quarter that we’re currently in, we’re up from where we were last year in both attendance and in bookings or in reservations…”

Meanwhile in Sacramento, a pair of state senators, including Sen. Ben Allen, D-Redondo Beach, said they plan to introduce legislation that would eliminate the ability of parents to receive a “personal belief” exemption from immunizing their children.

“The high number of unvaccinated students is jeopardizing public health not only in schools but in the broader community,” Allen said. “We need to take steps to keep our schools safe and our students healthy.”

Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, who is also a pediatrician, said the idea of people not immunizing their children has concerned him “for a long time.”

“I’ve personally witnessed the suffering caused by these preventable diseases and I am very grateful to the many parents that are now speaking up and letting us know that our current laws don’t protect their kids,” Pan said.

Pan authored a law in 2012 requiring parents to speak to a health care practitioner before obtaining a vaccination exemption. According to Pan, the number of parents seeking exemptions dropped by 20 percent when the law took effect.

Measles Outbreak Tied to Disneyland

January 7, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Nine people who visited Disneyland or Disney’s California Adventure Park in Anaheim in mid-December have contracted measles, the state Department of Public Health announced today.

State health officials said they believe a person with infectious measles was likely at one of the theme parks and spread the disease. All of the patients, along with three other people suspected of having measles, said they were at one or both of the Disney parks between Dec. 15 and Dec. 20, according to health officials.

“If you have symptoms and believe you may have been exposed, please contact your health care provider,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health. “The best way to prevent measles and its spread is to get vaccinated.”

Seven of the confirmed cases involve California residents, from Orange, Pasadena, Riverside, San Diego and Alameda, according to the CDPH. Two other cases are Utah residents. The three suspected cases are all among California residents.

Health officials are not sure if the original carrier is a local resident or a tourist from another state or country.

The confirmed California cases range in age from 8 months to 21 years old. Six of them were unvaccinated — two being too young, state officials said.

According to the state, measles generally begins with fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes. Within a few days a red rash appears, usually on the face then spreading down to the rest of the body. Measles is an infectious, airborne disease.

Disney is “working with the health department to provide any information and assistance we can,” said Dr. Pamela Hymel, the chief medical officer for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

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