California vaccine medical exemptions – SB276 and SB714 restricts abuse

California vaccine medical exemptions

On Monday, 9 September 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law SB276 and SB714 which restricts California vaccine medical exemptions. These laws were necessary to deal with the rampant abuse of SB277, the 2015 law that eliminated personal belief exemptions for vaccinations prior to children entering school.

A few children have legitimate reasons to be exempt from vaccines, so SB276 made sure that they could receive these exemptions from their physicians. Unfortunately, some anti-vaccine parents, showing no regard for the settled science of vaccine safety and efficacy, found loopholes around SB277. This drove down California’s vaccination rates with initial gains after the law was implemented in 2016.

These parents found unethical physicians who were willing to sign medical exemptions without the physician actually meeting the child in person, generally for an exorbitant fee. The sponsor of both bills, Senator Richard Pan, MD, observed this abuse and pushed forward SB276 to curb the abuse of California vaccine medical exemptions. Continue reading “California vaccine medical exemptions – SB276 and SB714 restricts abuse”

California SB276 – legislation to limit vaccine medical exemptions – UPDATED

sb276

On 20 June 2019, after a long day of testimony on California SB276 from both sides of the mandatory vaccine issue, the assembly health committee voted 9 in favor, 2 against, and 2 abstaining to move forward with the bill which can prevent fake medical exemptions.

This post will describe the amended bill and then shortly address today’s events. Continue reading “California SB276 – legislation to limit vaccine medical exemptions – UPDATED”

Anti-vaccine press conference about California’s SB276 – checking facts

anti-vaccine press conference

On September 5, 2019, Attorney Leigh Dundas, representing an organization called Advocates for Physician Rights, held an anti-vaccine press conference attended by very little press, and organized by anti-vaccine activists. 

Ms. Dundas called for a Department of Justice investigation into what she described as a “multi-year campaign to override laws aimed to safeguard the privacy of minor children,” and made accusations of a cover-up. Note that the Department of Justice receives many and constant calls for actions, so just calling them to investigate means little without actually pointing to serious wrongdoing that justifies it. Ms. Dundas did not point to such wrongdoing.

The anti-vaccine press conference addressed efforts in the early days after the enactment of SB277 to address an emerging issue – fake medical exemptions. But in spite of the efforts to present this as a new discovery or a nefarious plot, it isn’t.

In fact, SB277 opponents knew of the efforts in early 2016 and responded in an aggressive fashion, targeting Dr. Charity Dean, who took the lead in them, with many personal attacks and inclusion in one of their lawsuits. There is also no real evidence of anything nefarious. There is, however, abundant evidence that fake medical exemptions were an issue in 2016 and onwards, and SB276 is directed at a real problem. Continue reading “Anti-vaccine press conference about California’s SB276 – checking facts”

California legislature advanced SB276 – tightening vaccine exemption

The California legislature advanced SB276, sending it to Governor Gavin Newsom for his signature. SB276 would crackdown on unethical medical exemptions for vaccines, which the anti-vaccine religion has abused in response to SB277, a 2015 law that eliminated personal belief exemptions to vaccination for children entering school.

On 3 September 2019, the bill passed by an overwhelming 47-17 vote in the strongly Democratic-controlled Assembly. It was sent to the California Senate, which previously passed the bill but the Assembly added amendments that required a revote. On 4 September, the California Senate approved the bill by another overwhelming 28-11 vote

Like with SB277, Senator Dr. Richard Pan, MD led the effort to get the California legislature to pass SB276. 

In response to the vote, the anti-vaccine nutjobs utilized their predictable litany pseudoscientific and illogical rhetoric making all kinds of laughable claims. Along with a few hate-filled violent metaphors, of course.

Let’s take a look at the bill and some other updates to the political machinations surrounding it. Continue reading “California legislature advanced SB276 – tightening vaccine exemption”

Anti-vaccine radical assaulted Richard Pan – more violence

assaulted Richard Pan

On 21 August 2019, anti-vaccine radical Kenneth Austin Bennett assaulted Richard Pan, a California Senator and pediatrician, in Sacramento, California.  Bennett, who was live-streaming the physical assault on Facebook (as do many people with violent intentions), was cited for assault by the Sacramento Police Department and released.

Dr. Pan seemed to be walking peacefully at the time, not engaging the abhorrent behavior by Bennett during the walk. Dr. Pan appeared to be taken by surprise by the assault since he has had many documented experiences with anti-vaccine crackpots over the years – here’s one where he is verbally assaulted by a woman who claims to be a physician (she’s not, another typical lie from the anti-vaxxers). 

Lucky for everyone involved, Dr. Pan was unharmed.

Dr. Pan has been at the forefront of pro-vaccine legislation in California for the past 5 years. He was instrumental in passing SB277, which eliminated personal belief exemptions to vaccinations. SB277 has been instrumental in increasing the vaccination rate in school children in California, which will protect them from dangerous and deadly diseases.

He also has been driving a new law, SB276, which will attempt to reduce the abuse in medical exemptions to vaccines. This abuse has led to a slight downtick in the vaccine uptake in California, and the new legislation will make it more difficult for physicians to write (usually for cold hard cash) fake exemptions for anti-vaccine parents.

As a result, Dr. Pan has been subject to constant harassment, including vile racist memes, a political ad from anti-vaccine crackpot (and fellow Democrat) Robert F Kennedy Jr, and the usual list of logical fallacies and misinformation from the anti-vaccine religion

When Bennett assaulted Richard Pan, it was just a culmination of the hate-filled rhetoric and violent actions of anti-vaxxers. This is why I have compared the anti-vaccine zealots with pro-gun nuts. They think that violence is their only choice.

Just read some of the more vile comments posted on Bennett’s Facebook page after posting his video (not sure why Facebook doesn’t take it down, but then again Facebook has shown no interest in stopping racism, neo-Nazism, or anything else).

assaulted Richard Pan

To be fair, some of the comments condemned his actions, but they should have been much more pointed.

Richard Pan is a pediatrician and progressive legislator. His loves children and wants to protect them from diseases that he knows, using his scientific background, education, and experience, will cause grievous harm to the children of California. 

I do worry about the violent, racist rhetoric of the anti-vaccine nut jobs. My friend Dorit Rubinstein Reiss was supposed to present at a forum at Loma Linda University in August 2019, but it was canceled because of fear of disruption by the anti-vaxxers. 

Let’s be clear about something – Kenneth Austin Bennett assaulted Richard Pan because he had nothing else. He had no science supporting his beliefs. He had no logic. He had nothing, so violence was all he had.

On the other hand, you do not read about pro-vaccine, pro-science people assaulting anyone. You never rarely (if ever) read a comment from a pro-vaccine, pro-science person threatening violence. Because the science and the facts about vaccines are on our side, we don’t have to resort to lies, racist, or violence. 

Then again, we don’t generally don’t employ the hateful and violent rhetoric of the right-wing, irrespective of vaccines and science. The fact that Bennett assaulted Richard Pan should be roundly and clearly condemned by every anti-vaxxer – yet all we hear is nothing.



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Anti-vaccine racist threats against Richard Pan because racism

anti-vaccine racist

I’m republishing this article to show the vile hatred of the anti-vaccine racist threats against anyone who supports vaccines. This story is about past anti-vaccine racist violent death threats against California Senator Richard Pan, who pushed through SB277, the bill that eliminated the personal belief exemptions for mandatory school vaccines.

The bill still allows for legitimate medical exemptions (like immunocompromised children who need to be protected through the herd effect). Of course, Senator Pan is now pushing through legislation in the form of SB276 to reduce the abuse of the medical exemptions by many physicians with dubious excuses. 

Although Sen. Pan is the leader of the California legislators, who are championing mandatory vaccines for children, others have withstood intense and hate-filled criticism from the anti-vaccine racist crowd.

Continue reading “Anti-vaccine racist threats against Richard Pan because racism”

California vaccination rate down – linked to fake medical exemptions?

California vaccination rate

The California vaccination rate had been slowly growing since the implementation of SB277 in 2016, which eliminated the broadly abused personal belief exemptions to vaccines for students. Unfortunately, anti-vaccine parents abused the law by getting mostly fake medical exemptions (see Notes) to vaccines, which seems to have exploded over the past year or so.

In fact, the California Medical Board had put one of the more famous anti-vaccine pediatricians, Dr. Bob Sears, on probation for abusing vaccine medical exemptions and other issues. In 2016, the Executive Director of the Medical Board of California, represented by the office of the California Attorney General, then headed by Kamala Harrisbrought a complaint against Dr. Sears (pdf).

And in June 2019, a complaint against Dr. Sears was brought by Kimberly Kirchmeyer, executive director of the Medical Board of California, which alleges that Sears signed vaccine medical exemptions for two siblings. Those children did not have medically-recognized contraindications for any vaccines, based on their medical records.

Dr. Sears is merely the tip of a huge iceberg of physicians and other medical professionals signing off on fake medical exemptions – many of these physicians charge exorbitant fees for this “service.” There are several Facebook groups where anti-vax parents share information about these physicians who lack any concern for the long-term health of children. 

As a result of this ongoing abuse, the California legislature proposed SB276, which puts some stricter controls on medical exemptions. Essentially, SB276 states that the physician writing the exemption would have to submit a copy to the California Department of Health, and the department would create a system to review medical exemptions from schools with less than 95% immunization rates or doctors who submitted more than 5 exemptions.

SB276 won’t eliminate all abuse, but it should help.

Unfortunately, until SB276 is passed by the legislature and signed into law by the governor, the misuse of medical exemptions continues. And that might have led to a decrease in the California vaccination rate. Continue reading “California vaccination rate down – linked to fake medical exemptions?”

Dr. Ron Kennedy loses appeal against providing records to medical board for vaccine exemptions

Ron Kennedy

On 14 June 2019, a California Court of Appeals issued a decision (pdf) that means, in essence, that Dr. Ron Kennedy (see Note 1) has to provide the Medical Board of California with medical records of three patients for whom he wrote vaccine medical exemptions. This is part of an ongoing saga around Dr. Kennedy’s exemption writing.

Ron Kennedy is a licensed MD who owns a clinic called the Anti-Aging Clinic in Santa Rosa, CA,  which offers, apparently, anti-aging treatments. The Yelp reviews for the clinic suggest he has a long history of filling medical marijuana prescriptions. 

I am going to review Dr. Ron Kennedy’s background and the case in this article. Continue reading “Dr. Ron Kennedy loses appeal against providing records to medical board for vaccine exemptions”

Predicting US measles outbreak – vaccine uptake and international travel

The locations of the current US measles outbreak (or epidemic) was predicted by researchers in an article recently published in Lancet Infectious Diseases. The amazingly prescient predictions were not based on magic, but on a scientific analysis of two factors – the vaccination rate and international travel tendencies by county in the United States.

And the statistical website, Five Thirty-Eight, took the predictions and listed out what happened during this US measles outbreak. The predictions were spot on.

Time to look at this study and its predicted results.

Continue reading “Predicting US measles outbreak – vaccine uptake and international travel”

Dr Bob Sears license on probation for invalid vaccine exemptions – again

Dr Bob Sears

On 27 June 2018, Dr Robert (Bob) Sears, an anti-vaccine pediatrician, agreed to a stipulation with the California Medical Board that put his license to practice on probation and subjected him to a set of non-trivial conditions.

The revocation of the medical license of Dr Bob Sears was stayed by the Medical Board – it will not become operative unless he violates the conditions – but given the specific allegations in the complaint and the fact that this was his first disciplinary action, an immediate full revocation was not likely. The sanction is non-trivial, and a clear warning against future misconduct.  Continue reading “Dr Bob Sears license on probation for invalid vaccine exemptions – again”