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California may sharpen vaccine release rules to block measles



(AP)

California would allow public health officials instead of local doctors to decide which children could skip vaccinations before going to school according to bill proposed Tuesday to counter what who advocate forgery.

The measure would also let state and county health officials revoke medical exemptions from doctors if they were found to be fraudulent or opposed to federal immunization standards. The proposal comes between measles outbreaks in New York, Washington, and other places that encourage states, including Maine and Washington, to consider ending non-medical exceptions.

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California eliminated all non-medical immunization exceptions in 2016, which have Mississippi and West Virginia. The lawmakers want California to follow West Virginia's side in having public health officials instead of doctors deciding who qualifies for medical exemptions. The doctors would send the state health department the reason they recommended the exception and should confirm that they were investigating the patient.

The steps are needed to knock down a few conscientious doctors who help parents avoid vaccinating their children by selling mouth-to-mouth or online advertising medical exemptions, lawmakers and doctors representing prominent medical groups. a Capitol news conference.

"They made money from their medical license by selling these exceptions … putting our children and the public at risk for a quick buck," said the Democratic State Sen. Richard Pan of Sacramento, a pediatrician who wrote the current state law and the new proposal.

Several disturbed parents gathered in a Capitol corridor said the measure is not necessary because the rate of immunization is already high under current law. A shouting battle broke cards between opponents and a supporter of the law, reminiscent of the high emotions surrounding the original bill and continuing to haunt the problem.

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Overall immunization rates increased after the law came into force from less than 93 percent to more than 95 percent, enough to keep most outbreaks from spreading.

But the number of medical exceptions has also tripled, according to the California Department of Public Health. While still less than 1 percent of school children statewide, lawyers say that 50 schools have at least 15 percent relief rates, and more than half of students are not vaccinated in at least three schools.

It means pockets of unvaccinated children who could spread diseases like measles "because of the increase in false medical exceptions and by the fact that false information spreads on the internet," said Dr. Eric Ball, representing the American Academy of Pediatrics in California.

Federal Guidelines say less than 1 percent of children should avoid vaccinations if they have a severe allergic reaction or weakened immunity, such as from a liver problem, HIV virus or chemotherapy.

But David Ball of Sacramento said his family will leave California if Pan's bill passes, and he will otherwise have his 10-year-old daughter vaccinated when she reaches seventh grade. He said she started rashing after her infant vaccinations, but more broadly opposed to state bureaucrats replacing their decision for her family doctor.

Amber Ebel from Sacramento said that genetic counseling showed her two children aged 6 and 10 were poor candidates for vaccinations, although it is not enough to qualify for a derogation under federal guidelines.

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"It would basically be like playing Russian roulette," she said. "You don't know anyone will get a reaction before you do it."

Shannon Primer, a board member of Educate. Attorney, who serves families with special needs, criticized Pan for what she said is a broken promise to maintain "a strong and robust medical exception".


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