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Area Lawmaker, Santa Monica-Malibu School District Take Steps to Combat Measles Outbreak

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Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

February 5, 2015 -- Two California state senators, including former Santa Monica-Malibu School Board President Ben Allen, proposed legislation Wednesday to repeal the “personal belief” exemption that allows parents to opt out of vaccinating their children from diseases like the measles.

“The high number of unvaccinated students is jeopardizing public health, not only in schools but in the broader community,” said Allen, co-author of the legislation with Sacramento Senator Richard Pan, a pediatrician.

“We need to take steps to keep our schools safe and our students healthy,” said Allen.

The proposed legislation was unveiled at a news conference in Sacramento as officials continue to grapple with outbreak that includes 99 cases in California alone, including 17 in Los Angeles County,  according to the California Department of Public Health.

Meanwhile, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District officials scrambled to deal with the discovery Monday of an infant with the measles at Santa Monica High School’s Samohi Infant/Toddler Center. The center was closed as a result.

In a statement, Superintendent Sandra Lyon said that 14 parents of infants at the center have been contacted by the Los Angeles County Department of Health, which recommended the babies stay home and out of the public for 21 days.

When the center does reopen – no date has yet been set – all parents must show proof of protection from the measles by getting a blood test and a “titer,” which measures the amount of antibodies found in a patient’s blood, from their pediatricians, Lyon’s said.

Toddlers will be readmitted only with this proof.
In addition, a letter from the area’s public health officer, Dr. Jan King, was to go out Wednesday to all parents at the center informing them of the situation.

The district said that public health officials Wednesday were also recommending that 13 parents of the centers’ infants and toddlers  -- who are SMMUSD teachers -- be required to have blood tests done and to provide proof of protection with a “titer” before going back to work at their school sites.

As an alternative, they may provide proof of two MMR immunizations.
Santa Monica High School is working with public health authorities to “ensure that all exposed persons get the care (including vaccinations) they need and are excluded as indicated,” Lyon’s said.

All parents should make sure their youngsters have two doses of MMR to make sure they are protected from the measles, Lyons said in her statement.
If high school students aren’t vaccinated, and insurance is not available, they can go the Venice Family Clinic on the Samohi campus Thursday morning or be vaccinated through public health, she said.

Officials said vaccinations were available Wednesday and would be available on Thursday and Friday at 2509 Pico Boulevard, Suite 320. Those interested can call 310-998-3204 for more information and hours.

Lyon also urged all students properly vaccinated to remain in school to “avoid missing class instruction and falling behind.”

Under current California law, a parent can choose to opt out of vaccination requirements by using the “personal belief” exemption.

In 2012, Sen. Pan’s office said a measure he authored required that parents who exempt their child from vaccinations must first talk with a licensed health care professional about the impact on their youngster as well as the community.

In the first year of the new law, 20 percent fewer parents used the personal belief exemption, Pan said, adding that in some areas of the state, more than 10 percent still do.

SMMUSD board member Oscar de la Torre said he supported the proposed legislation but had some sympathy for parents who struggle over the idea of vaccines, especially those who fear the vaccinations are linked to autism.

De la Torre said more studies need to be conducted to answer the questions that linger is some minds about a link between autism and vaccinations.

He and his wife “struggled” with whether to get their two children, ages four and eight, the vaccinations, de la Torre said. In the end they did, although they strung out the vaccinations. Now he urges other parents to get their children vaccinated.
“I did it with my kids, and I feel good about it,” he said.

If the new legislation is passed, California will join 32 other states that prohibit parents from opting out of the vaccination by using the personal belief exemption. The legislation requires schools to notify parents of school rates of immunization.

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