Panel of health, legal experts to address undervaccination in California

In an effort to bring more light to the often heated discussions about vaccinations, UC Berkeley will gather together a panel of health and legal experts on Tuesday (March 3).

Child getting vaccine

The undervaccination of children has been blamed for the current outbreak of measles in the United States. (iStockphoto)

“Vaccination Gap: The Causes and Consequences of Undervaccination in California,” will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in Room 245 in the Li Ka Shing Center. The event, free and open to the public, is sponsored by the School of Public He alth’s Division of Epidemiology and the Henry Wheeler Center for Emerging and Neglected Diseases (CEND).

The discussion stems from the current outbreak of the highly contagious measles virus, 15 years after the disease was considered eradicated in this country. The virus’s comeback has been blamed on the rise in unvaccinated and undervaccinated children.

Speaking at the start of the event will be Carl Krawitt, whose 6-year-old son, Rhett, cannot get vaccinated because he is in remission from leukemia. Krawitt has publicly asked his son’s Marin County school to bar unvaccinated children to protect his son’s health.

The expert speakers will be Dr. Janet Berreman, director of the City of Berkeley’s Public Health Division; Dr. Arthur Reingold, professor and head of epidemiology at UC Berkeley; Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, professor of law at UC Hastings College of the Law; Dr. John Swartzberg, clinical professor in the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program; and Sharon Kaufman, professor of medical anthropology at UC San Francisco.

They will discuss the social and cultural framework of resistance to childhood vaccinations in the San Francisco Bay Area, in California and in the nation.

Other vaccine-related issues to be addressed are the question of constitutional rights, civil liability, and the status and potential impact of proposed state legislation to alter “personal belief exemption” rules.

In California, such exemptions allow parents to easily opt out of immunizing their children. Two state senators, Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) and Bill Allen (D-Redondo Beach), have introduced legislation that, if passed, would only allow medical exemptions to vaccinations.

Registration to attend the panel can be carried out online. Directions to Li Ka Shing are available here.

NOTE: This panel’s venue, Room 245 Li Ka Shing Center, has been updated from the original room assignment of Room 125.