Elk Grove Citizen: Time calls Pan a vaccine ‘hero’

Local state senator also faces recall campaign for vaccination law

August 14, 2015
By Bryan M. Gold - Citizen Staff Writer

Local State Sen. Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) was recently lauded by Time magazine for the same reason he is the subject of a recall effort pushed for by an Elk Grove mother.

The magazine late last month called Pan a vaccine “hero” for co-authoring Senate Bill 277, which eliminated the personal belief exemption for parents who choose to opt their child out of school vaccine requirements.

“The work that’s done by policy-makers matters a lot,” Jeffrey Kluger wrote in the section about Pan.

But that work has made him the focus of a recall campaign.

Local resident Katherine Duran and a team of volunteers are now collecting signatures to put Pan’s elected future on the ballot late next year.

California’s Secretary of State’s Office said Duran must collect nearly 36,000 valid signatures from voters in Pan’s Senate district by Dec. 31 for the recall issue to appear on the ballot.

“The language has been hijacked, and the word ‘vaccine’ has become synonymous with safety and public health,” Duran said on July 28. “For much of this movement, it’s about the vaccines.”

She added, “For me, it’s about liberty. It’s about not losing our liberty or our right to decide what doesn’t go into our bodies. Do we want the government to decide what goes into our body, regardless of our consent?”

Kluger also named Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin as vaccine heroes. The researchers for what is now known as the March of Dimes both sought in the 1950s to create a polio vaccine.

They took different routes, but both accomplished the goal, as Kluger wrote that polio is “endemic” in just Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria.

Another “hero” was Edward Jenner, who in the late 1700s created the world’s first vaccine. Smallpox in 1980 became the first and only disease to this point to have been vaccinated out of existence.

Some of the vaccine “villains” have a local connection.

Comedian and actor Rob Schneider backed former Elk Grove resident Tony Amador in his Assembly race against Pan in 2012 because of the pediatrician’s stance on immunization.

“This is a parental rights and a child safety issue,” Schneider told News10 shortly before that election.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., son of the late U.S. attorney general and presidential candidate, spoke against SB 277 in Sacramento in April.

Pan late last month said he is taking the recall effort in stride.

“I ran for office on the platform to build a healthier and safer California, and we have been doing just that by strengthening immunization rates,” Pan said. “I remain focused on the health and safety of children and communities.”

He added, “I won’t be detoured from taking on the tough issues that are important to people in my district simply because there are some that use anti-science rhetoric to ignite division and fear.”

That echoed his comments on June 30, the day California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law.

“When we craft laws and make policies, we should be focused on the facts,” Pan said. “But I was not going to back down by bullying and intimidation by the opposition. I’m going to do what I believe is right for the people of California.”

SB 277 coauthors included Sen. Ben Allen, the former Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board president in southern California, and State Assembly Member Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove).

Cooper, who took Pan’s seat in the Assembly when the latter was elected to the Senate in November, said he believed the recall effort will fail.

“Dr. Pan took on a grave matter of public safety and public health,” Cooper said late last month. “I am confident that voters in his district will clearly see that SB 277 will protect our children from diseases that were once deadly and unpreventable.”