Valley News -

By Lexington Howe

Vaccine bill SB276 is not 'California for All,' those affected say


Last updated 9/10/2019 at 8:30am

Editor’s note; This story has been edited and updated, adding information from the Sept. 4 companion bill vote and removing Sandra Efraimson’s title as a registered nurse since the California Board of nursing currently lists her RN license as “Inactive.” A reference by Christina Hildebrand, who started the nonprofit A Voice for Choice Advocacy, to co-author of SB277 Senator Ben Allen being opposed to the SB276 has also been removed, since Allen voted “yes” to pass SB276 Sept. 4, 2019.

Vaccine bill SB276, which seeks to narrow the guidelines of medical exemptions and continue forced vaccinations from previous senate bill 277, is currently on Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk to be signed into effect. The bill was pushed past Senate Sept. 3.

But Newsom, according to The Associated Press, is asking lawmakers for a few changes to the bill, leaving some confused. Regardless of the requested amendments -- enforcement starting next year, removal of a requirement that doctors swear under penalty of perjury that they are not charging fees to fill out medical exemption forms or conducting related medical examinations and an exemption keeping the individual medical forms from being made public -- many of those affected are still concerned about what the bill would mean for them and their families.

Democratic state Sen. Richard Pan of Sacramento, the author of the bill, accepted Gov. Gavin Newsom's last-minute demand for additional changes, Friday, Sept. 4, days after lawmakers sent Newsom the bill cracking down on doctors who sell fraudulent medical exemptions,setting up a final series of votes before lawmakers adjourn for the year next week.

“This has directly affected my family,” Sandra Efraimson, a Murrieta resident and mother of one, said.

“My son had a vaccine reaction to his one year series of vaccines, and unfortunately the pediatrician did not seem to be knowledgeable enough to recognize the injury immediately,” Efraimson said. She had previously worked at a nonprofit mobile clinic that also offered vaccines.

“In that year I studied the subject. I was under the impression that these injuries happened in very low numbers, one-in-a-million type of numbers, and I came to find out that the more research I do there isn’t actually clear data to show that,” Efraimson said. “The injuries in our case were not recognized by the doctors.”

Christina Hildebrand, who started the nonprofit A Voice for Choice Advocacy back in 2015 has been following the new bill since its predecessor, senate bill 277, which took away the ability to obtain medical exemptions for religious or personal beliefs.

“At that point, with SB277, a parent could no longer make a choice of whether to vaccinate or not if they wanted them to go to public or private school,” Hildebrand said. She doesn’t believe SB276 is necessary, as it harms the relationship between patient and doctor. “When SB277 was passed in 2015 there were a number of legislators very adamant that they would only pass this bill if the medical exemption was broad, robust, and at the discretion of the doctor, and Governor Jerry Brown said that in his signing statement,” she said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Protection provides a vaccine schedule of when you should have your child vaccinated. SB276 will continue to push required vaccinations and prevent many from receiving exemptions, according to Hildebrand.

“There are points being made that there is collusion between the California Medical Association, who is a sponsor of SB276, and the medical board,” Hildebrand said. She goes further to state that 60% of the physicians on the medical board are apart of the CMA, yet only 20% of physicians are CMA members. “The CMA doesn’t really represent physicians, yet they’re overrepresenting the medical board,” she said.

Those pushing the bill forward argue that doctors have been writing false medical exemptions, and this bill will seek to eliminate that.

“I would say the fraudulent medical exemptions are based on false premises,” Hildebrand said, adding “we haven’t seen any doctor come up for a false medical exemption, and while there are investigations going on, there are no doctors being accused of it.”

“The common misconception of parents and people fighting this bill is that we’re anti-vaxxers, but the true majority of us were once for it, we were pro-vaxxers, and something happened to our children that made us think about what was happening and what was causing their reactions, and in most cases it was immediately after,” said Veronica Pechecko, a parent of a vaccine-injured child.

“Governor Newsom has this slogan, ‘California for All’, but this is definitely not California for all,” Pechecko said.

Pechecko’s son was born three weeks premature. He spent several months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for complications before being discharged, and received a set of shots during his second appointment post NICU. “He had a severe reaction,” Pechecko said. “He got the shots and we brought him home. He started running a really high fever and because he was a preemie, we called the office and they told us to bring him back in,” she said.

Pechecko was a new mom at the time, and at first didn’t link it to the vaccinations.

“I was never given any informed consent, where they give you the vaccine inserts with the pros and cons, the risks, side effects, negative outcomes that may occur with sets of vaccines or single vaccines,” Pechecko said. “I just did what my doctor told me.”

Efraimson admits they don’t talk much about the harmful effects in nursing school.

“Nurses are told vaccines are great and we should tell everyone to get vaccines,” Efraimson said. “What I see is doctors and nurses not recognizing the injuries and not reporting them correctly, and then the data reflecting incorrectly out of the CDC, and these politicians are using that data to make these bills,” she said.

“I had all of the recommended vaccines when I was pregnant with him, up to the age of one with what was recommended by the CDC schedule, and from that one year series it included Measles-Mumps-Rubella and Varicella vaccine, which are the live viruses, and that was when he regressed into what was starting to be described as autism,” Efraimson said. “Really, he had digestive issues, he started getting recurring rashes and behaviors that looked like he was having a lot of pain, and it was pretty horrible to watch.”

Vaccine manufacturers are currently protected under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, that went into effect Oct. 1, 1988. The current total of payouts to victims of vaccine injury was estimated at $4 billion as of December 2018 by Health Resources and Services Administration, and these payouts are decided by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program in vaccine court, which is paid by taxpayers, leaving vaccine manufacturers in the clear, free of being liable according to U.S. code § 300aa–22(b)(1).

“These politicians and pharmaceutical companies aren’t going to be responsible for our children getting sick, or permanently injured, we’re the ones that are going to have to deal with the fallout of that,” Pechecko said.

For Pechecko, it comes down to medical freedom and constitutional rights. “We should have the choice to have body autonomy, and the choice to partake in medications or pharmaceuticals or biologics, because there is no liability for vaccine manufacturers,” she said, adding “we’re all for ‘my body my choice’ except for when it comes to vaccinations.”

Another issue of concern for Pechecko comes down to education. This bill could create a ripple effect. “We are fortunate to be able to homeschool, but a lot of people cannot. There are single income families, single mothers that are going to be faced with taking that risk of choosing between forced vaccinations in order to be able to send them to school,” she said.

“I really hope that legislatures are listening,” Efraimson said, who attended the rally for SB276 Aug. 28 in Sacramento. “They say that most of California is approving this bill, but what I’m finding is that most people don’t know about it, if at all.”

According to the Associated Press, the Sept. 4 compromise pleased the bill's supporters.

American Academy of Pediatrics, California, chief executive Kris Calvin and Vaccinate California executive director Leah Russin both praised Newsom and Pan for working out their differences.

Russin called the agreement "a victory for science over fear and for sound public health policy over conspiracy and misinformation," while also urging Newsom to immediately sign the bill already on his desk.

Calvin said her group supports the amendments if it means both bills become law.

"We are perfectly satisfied that this bill will satisfy its objective of making sure that bogus medical exemptions are uncovered ... while protecting valid medical exemptions," Calvin said.

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, a fellow Democrat from San Diego, said both chambers plan to vote on the companion bill on Monday, with the understanding that Newsom would then sign the original measure.

Lexington Howe can be reached by email at [email protected]


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