In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms have helped spread this dangerous myth. Measles can kill.
Antivaxxers failed to stop enactment of reform legislation in California.
Six anti-vaccine activists have been arrested, one leader tells me. Three were blocking the south entrance, another three were taken into custody from the north side. Is it peaceful if people are chaining themselves to a door. “We need to make a statement,” one woman says. #SB276 pic.twitter.com/ZKyQgOHlw3— Bryan Anderson (@BryanRAnderson) September 9, 2019
Dr. Richard Pan, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and a broad coalition of doctors, health care providers, public health officials, family and child advocates and parents celebrated the signing of Senate Bill 276 into law today, which will prevent fake medical exemptions and require oversight of the medial exemption process.
Senate Bill 276 will require physicians to submit information to California Department of Public Health (CDPH), including the physician’s name and license number and the reason for the exemption, which CDPH will check to ensure they are consistent with the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines or stand of care. The physician must also certify that they have examined the patient in person.
Additionally, CDPH will create and maintain a database of medical exemptions. CDPH will have the authority to revoke medical exemptions granted by licensed physicians if they are found to be fraudulent or inconsistent with standard of care. This authority will give the state public health officer the tools necessary to contain and prevent further outbreaks.
After working with the Governor’s office, Dr. Pan agreed to amendments that are contained in a separate measure, Senate Bill 714.
Following a measles outbreak in Disneyland in 2014, California legislators passed Senate Bill 277, authored by Dr. Pan, which eliminated all non-medical exemptions to the required vaccines for school entry. As a result of the implementation of Senate Bill 277, overall vaccination rates have increased sharply statewide since 2015. Figures from earlier this year show that immunization rates remain high, but have decreased slightly over the last two years. The report shows that 94.8 percent of kindergarteners in 2018-2019 have been vaccinated, a 0.3 percent decrease from the 2017-2018 school year.
However, California has also experienced a dramatic increase in the number of medical exemptions. Last year it had tripled (from 0.2 percent in 2015-16 to 0.7 percent in 2017-18). Data from this year shows the percentage has quadrupled to 0.9 percent. Low vaccination rates in certain pockets of the state have put children and communities at risk. More than 100 schools have a medical exemption rate over 10 percent, far beyond what should be expected, putting children and communities at risk.
The vaccine schedule prevents measles and other types of diseases, including pertussis, (also known as whooping cough), which is marked by severe coughing attacks that can last for months. Infants too young for vaccination are at greatest risk for life-threatening cases of pertussis.
When measles spreads in a community with immunization rates below 94 percent, the protection provided by ‘community immunity’ is lost. This means that many people, are at risk of becoming infected, including those who cannot be immunized, infants, chemotherapy patients and people with HIV or other conditions.
The hesitation to vaccinate on the part of a growing number of parents stems from misinformation such as the now retracted 1998 study that falsified data to purport a link between autism and the measles vaccine. The study was authored by Andrew Wakefield who was later found to be lying. Also, numerous subsequent studies worldwide involving hundreds of thousands of children have proved that vaccines are safe and do not cause autism.