Vaccine Exemption Bill Prompts Threats

California State Sen. Richard Pan, a pediatrician, and Sen. Ben Allen introduced SB 277 to abolish the personal belief exemption that allows parents to opt their children out of vaccines in schools.

Anti-vaccine activists have responded to SB 277, a bill before California's legislature, with threatening calls, emails, and Facebook posts that caused security to be increased in the state capitol, The Sacramento Bee's Alexei Koseff reported April 14. California State Sen. Richard Pan, a pediatrician representing Sacramento, and Sen. Ben Allen introduced SB 277 to abolish the personal belief exemption that allows parents to opt their children out of vaccines in schools.

The bill was passed by the Senate Health Committee on April 8 by a 6-2 vote.

"As a pediatrician and a father myself, I respect the very personal decisions that parents have to make for their children every day," Pan said. "But I've personally witnessed the suffering caused by vaccine-preventable diseases, and all children deserve to be safe at school. The personal belief exemption is now putting other school children and people in our community in danger."

"It is easy to forget what it was like before we had broad-based vaccinations and there was a lot of suffering, and even death, from serious infectious diseases," Allen said. "It is unacceptable for children to contract potentially fatal diseases at school or in the grocery store because we failed to act."

California's current exemption allows a parent to opt a child out of school vaccine requirements; SB 277 will remove that option, leaving only a medical exemption.

Koseff's article said messages left for Pan "range from images depicting Pan as a Nazi to posts on his Facebook page calling for him to be 'eradicated' or hung by a noose," and that Pan's staff has forwarded all of the threats to the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms office.

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