California State Senator Richard Pan is a physician who was instrumental in leading the charge for SB277, the law that eliminated personal belief exemptions to vaccinations by California school-age children. Senator or Dr. Pan, your choice I presume, has been dedicated to the health of children in the state of California, sponsoring bills that attempt to improve the healthcare of children across the state.
Unless you’re a vaccine denier, SB277 has been an unmitigated success. Vaccination rates have skyrocketed across the state, meaning more children are protected from deadly vaccine-preventable diseases. Dr. Pan deserves a statue in the Hall of Vaccine Heroes, which should include Edward Jenner, Paul Offit, Jonas Salk, and Maurice Hilleman. He’s probably too modest to accept such an honor.
Unfortunately, Senator Richard Pan has been the target of violent hateful racism and withering personal attacks across social media. He seems to either ignore it or like many of us, just stand up to these attacks with reasoned, evidence-based arguments. Not that the vaccine deniers are capable of listening to reason or evidence.
Recently, Dr. Pan was accosted by an anti-vaxxer at an airport in Orange County, CA. She recorded the encounter on video, despite being asked by Dr. Pan to not do so. Well, let’s look at the video, especially Dr. Pan’s responses, which were calm, professional, and accurate.
Senator Richard Pan videoed by Tyler Dahm
The video was captured by a relatively unknown Colorado-based anti-vaxxer, Tyler Dahm. She claims that her adopted child became developmentally delayed as a result of vaccines. Of course, she provided no evidence of her claims.
If you’re going to deny vaccines because of some supposed link that supports this belief, then give us the evidence. If you’re going to claim that children need to be denied life-saving vaccines because of your claim, then prove it. Extraordinary claims about the lack of safety of vaccines demand extraordinary evidence.
Dahm also claimed in the video that she is a physician, who graduated from the University of Colorado School of Medicine in May 2017. She also claimed that she hasn’t started her residency – this would be very unusual, since most residency slots are filled near the final semester of medical school, and most newly minted physicians move from medical school to residency soon after graduation. It’s possible that Dahm failed to get a match to get a residency position (which means if she really is an MD, she ranked low). Residency is required to be licensed as a physician, so she doesn’t get to practice medicine.
However, she really didn’t graduate from medical school. In this confusing and inarticulate video from the Vaxxed bus tour, Dahm clearly admitted to having left medical school and not returning. She stated that she did this because the professors at the medical school refused to believe her stories about vaccines. Of course, they would, they demand evidence, and she couldn’t provide any.
But there’s more. Her LinkedIn profile not only does not indicate that she’s never received an MD, it also doesn’t even show she’s gone to medical school at the University of Colorado or any place else. In fact, from 2014-present, she was the owner of Pathways Natural Wellness Center where she hawked useless junk medicine.
According to someone with a lot of veracity in the world of medicine, communications with the University of Colorado School of Medicine indicate that she was never a student there. Maybe she attended under another name. Maybe she attended another medical school. Maybe she went to chiropractic school in Colorado (of course, there are none). But right now, we have no evidence that she ever attended medical school.
So, before we even start this story about Senator Richard Pan, we have a person who lacks an appreciation of facts about herself, let alone vaccines.
For the first 5:20 of the Facebook video, embedded above, Dahm appeared to be agitated. She claimed she wanted to harm Dr. Pan, though she did not act on her urges, obviously, and that she wouldn’t mind staying in jail for a night for assaulting him. I doubt she’d be in jail for one night for felony assault – it’s a scary proposition nevertheless. And, it’s more evidence that she’s not a physician – she wanted to harm a fellow human being.
To be fair, I almost stopped watching because I didn’t really want to see much more of this unglued behavior from Dahm. However, when she finally engaged Dr. Pan, Dahm seemed to calm down and acted professionally. She appeared to actually listen to him. Spoiler alert – she really doesn’t.
Senator Richard Pan responds to Tyler Dahm
Dr. Pan initially responded to Dahm by saying, “I’m a pediatrician. I’ve devoted my life to taking care of children.” He also stated that he focuses on developmental delays in children.
He then said that there is a lot of misinformation spread about vaccines and that parents, because of this misinformation, attribute certain symptoms to vaccines. This makes parents overly anxious about vaccines. Dr. Pan stated that his job as a physician is to help overcome those concerns.
He claimed that it is important to keep children safe. This isn’t a monster that’s often depicted in loathsome memes posted about him. He thinks car seats, bicycle helmets, and safe swimming pools are just as important as vaccines.
These are the statements of an ethical physician whose primary concern is our children. For example, he pushed for pediatric healthcare services for children in his hometown of Sacramento, CA.
His comments were articulate and professional, despite what appeared to be the hostile intent of Tyler Dahm.
She asked a rather ignorant question about medical exemptions under SB277, claiming that they are harder to get. Dr. Pan responded that there are CDC guidelines for medical exemptions and that they are available to children who qualify in California. Then he stated something important – vaccinating children without these medical exemptions helps protect the unvaccinated children. Vaccination stops the chain of transmission of contagious diseases.
Dr. Pan clearly stated that pediatricians are trained to discuss vaccines prior to the vaccination. They get informed consent from the parents before giving vaccines. Pan said, “we do not forcibly give children vaccines. Only with the parent’s consent do we give the vaccines.”
Dr. Pan mentioned an outbreak of measles in Philadelphia, PA where over 900 children contracted measles in two groups who belonged to anti-vaccine churches. Nine children died from measles in this outbreak – every one of those children’s lives could have been saved with the measles vaccine.
Dr. Pan then referred to the pertussis outbreak in California in 2010 during which 10 children died. The rate of whooping cough infection was much higher in unvaccinated children than vaccinated ones.
Dahm responded to these factual statements with “we’ve never heard about this.” Why had she not heard about them? There are numerous articles in PubMed about both outbreaks, since it was important to understand them from a public health perspective. This goes to a major point I make about the anti-vaccine crowd – they tend to cherry-pick “research” from Google to support their vaccine denial, while completely ignoring or dismissing evidence that doesn’t.
Dahm then discussed her adopted child that developed something (it wasn’t clear to me, but I think it was some type of developmental delay) at 22 months. Dr. Pan replied that a lot of neurodevelopmental conditions occur during the first 2 years of life, which happens coincidentally with vaccines.
Dr. Pan then discussed Andrew Wakefield‘s retracted paper – he said that the scientific community did not assume that the paper was fraudulent at first. Since the medical community has always taken vaccine safety very seriously, it was carefully investigated. And as we know, the scientific consensus is clear – there are no links between vaccines and autism. Dahm appeared to be clueless about the amount of scientific evidence that refuted the hypothesis that vaccines caused autism.
Furthermore, Dr. Pan referred to the BMJ articles (you can read about it here, here, and here), written by Brian Deer, that showed the actual fraud committed by Wakefield. Again Dahm appeared to be completely unaware of Deer and his articles, which shows, once again, that cherry-picking prevails. One more point – Dr. Pan stated that Wakefield lost his license because of how he experimented on children without ethics approval. These claims are facts.
We’re done here
Near the end of the video, Dahm needed to catch a flight and ended the conversation. She seemed polite and understanding.
At this point, I thought that Senator Richard Pan had had an effect on her thinking. I felt as though maybe she learned a few things about vaccines that got her to rethink her positions.
I was wrong.
Dahm ended her video with, “I’m f—ing astounded. I’m literally astounded at the misinformation that was just shared here by a public policymaker and a physician.”
Well, I’m not astounded by Dahm’s ignorance – it is based on her pre-ordained beliefs, so no amount of evidence can penetrate her wall against scientific evidence.
But Dr. Pan exhibited incredible courtesy, patience, and professionalism to explain to Tyler, who came across as shrill and aggressive, the scientific facts about vaccines and vaccinations. I admire Dr. Pan for this – my patience would have disappeared after about 10 seconds. It’s too bad that Tyler Dahm didn’t take the opportunity to learn something.
- Rodgers DV, Gindler JS, Atkinson WL, Markowitz LE. High attack rates and case fatality during a measles outbreak in groups with religious exemption to vaccination. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 1993 Apr;12(4):288-92. PubMed PMID: 8483622.