As of Friday, Feb. 20, California health officials reported 123 confirmed cases of measles since December 2014. That is 50 more cases in a month and twice the total cases in 2014. A week ago, the total cases in the U.S. were 141.
As a result of the expanding measles outbreak, state senators Dr. Richard Pan and Ben Allen, along with Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, introduced legislation to repeal California’s option for parents to choose not to vaccinate their children.
Existing law requires students at any public or private elementary or secondary school (including child care center, day nursery, nursery school, family day care home or development center) to be fully immunized against various diseases, including measles, mumps and pertussis (whooping cough).
However, it does provide an exemption from those provisions for medical reasons or because of personal beliefs, if specified forms are submitted to the governing authority.
Senate Bill 277 would eliminate the exemption from immunization based upon personal beliefs. If enacted, only children who have been immunized for various diseases, including measles and pertussis, may be admitted to a California school. The bill also will require schools to notify parents of immunization rates at their child’s school.
“It is our duty and responsibility to protect all children who attend schools in California,” said Pan, a pediatrician representing Sacramento. “SB 277 was introduced because parents are speaking up and letting us know that current laws are not enough to protect their kids. As a pediatrician I have personally witnessed the suffering caused by diseases that are preventable, and I am very grateful to all those parents who are speaking up as a result of the recent measles outbreak.”
His senate colleague, Allen, a former board president of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, said in the same press release, “It is easy to forget what it was like before we had broad-based vaccinations and there was a lot of suffering and even death from serious infectious diseases. We cannot risk returning to those days. Parents should not have to live in fear of their child contracting a potentially fatal disease at school or in the grocery store because of another parent’s choice not to vaccinate their child.”
Although California has experienced a later flu season, which is still widespread, Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County public health officer, in a press release last week, confirmed the first flu-related death in the county this year. Other flu-related activities were normal in Riverside County for the week ending Feb. 14.
“A 33-year-old man from western Riverside County who recently died has tested positive for influenza … The man tested positive and died last week after being hospitalized … Officials say the patient had other underlying health issues that contributed to his death,” according to Kaiser.
While overall influenza activity in California continues to be high, according to the State Department of Public Health, outpatient visits and hospitalization data fell that week compared to the week ending Feb. 7.