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

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

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

WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com