Dr. Richard Pan and Vaccinate California Make Statements on CDC Report Detailing a Measles Outbreak that Occurred in the Bay Area

February 28, 2019

Sacramento, CA— Dr. Richard Pan, pediatrician and State Senator who authored Senate Bill 277 in 2015 which removed all exemptions to vaccine requirements for school entry except medical exemptions, and Leah Russin, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Vaccinate California, a parent advocacy group working to improve public health in California by raising vaccination rates, made the following statements after today’s release of a Centers of Disease Control and Prevention report that provides details of a 2018 measles outbreak among unvaccinated individuals in California. 

Read the report here.

“Last spring, California experienced an outbreak of measles, a highly contagious and dangerous disease, when an unvaccinated California teen returned from England and Wales, where there was an ongoing measles outbreak. The unvaccinated, infected teen then spread the disease to other unvaccinated youth including two who had suspect medical exemptions that were not consistent with guidelines for vaccination contraindications.  In addition, it also appears a family’s lack of cooperation with public health authorities led to further spread of the disease. Ultimately, seven people were infected with measles.

Yesterday, public health officials testified before Congress about the role of pervasive vaccine misinformation in causing measles outbreaks in Washington, Texas, and New York.  This report highlights how deceptions by some led to further spread of measles in the community, undermining efforts by county health officials to contain the outbreak.  SB277 raised statewide immunization rates among children entering kindergarten increasing community immunity; but unfortunately, there are some individuals who choose to deliberately deceive public health officials about their children’s vaccination and disease status, which exposes the public to serious diseases. The facts of this outbreak requires further action to protect our children and the public from injury due to preventable diseases,” said Dr. Richard Pan, State Senator and pediatrician and author of Senate Bill 277.

“This frightening outbreak of measles highlights the need for tighter controls on medical exemptions.  Predatory doctors should not be allowed to monetize parental unfounded fears - instead they must do the hard work to educate parents about the real risks.  Children and communities deserve the protection modern medicine offers,” said Leah Russin, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Vaccinate California.

Measles was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000.  However, in the same year, the disgraced author of a fraudulent paper published in The Lancet in 1998, which the medical journal later retracted, appeared on a 60 Minutes broadcast falsely claiming the MMR vaccine caused autism.  Stoked by unfounded anxiety about vaccines, personal belief exemptions to legally required vaccines for school entry rose in California until the implementation of AB 2109, which Dr. Richard Pan authored in 2012 which required parents be counseled about the impact of personal belief exemptions on their child’s health and that of the community. After the measles outbreak that began at Disneyland, which infected 136 people and the 2010 pertussis outbreak in California which lead to the death of 10 infants, Dr. Richard Pan and Senator Ben Allen authored SB 277 in California. SB 277 was signed into law in July 2015. Since its implementation, the legislation has been responsible for raising statewide immunization rates among children entering kindergarten increasing community immunity. 

Dr. Richard Pan is a parent, small business owner, former UC Davis educator and pediatrician who represents Sacramento, West Sacramento, Elk Grove and unincorporated areas of Sacramento County in the state legislature and is the Chair of the Senate Health Committee. As a legislator, Dr. Pan continues to practice medicine at WellSpace Health Oak Park Community Clinic, pursuing his passion for working with families to build healthier communities.

Leah Russin is a lawyer turned full-time mom. She advocates for science-based public health policy. Leah began Vaccinate California in 2015 to give a voice to the parents who want to re-build our community immunity.