Media Advisory: Panel of health, legal experts to address undervaccination in California

ATTENTION: Public health and legal reporters covering nationwide measles outbreak

WHAT: “Vaccination Gap: The Causes and Consequences of Undervaccination in California,” a free, public panel discussion hosted by the UC Berkeley School of Public Health’s Division of Epidemiology and the Henry Wheeler Center for Emerging and Neglected Diseases (CEND).

The panel of health and legal experts will discuss the underlying social and cultural framework of resistance to childhood vaccinations in the San Francisco Bay Area, California and the nation. Panelists will also address vaccine-related questions of constitutional rights, civil liability, and the status and potential impact of proposed state legislation to alter “personal belief exemption” rules.

The audience will first hear from 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.

WHEN: 5:30-7 p.m., Tuesday, March 3. Register online.

WHERE: 245 Li Ka Shing Center, UC Berkeley. Directions are available online.

WHO: Speakers will be:

  • Janet Berreman, MD, MPH, director, City of Berkeley Public Health Division
  • Sharon Kaufman, PhD, professor of medical anthropology, UC San Francisco
  • Arthur Reingold, MD, professor and head of epidemiology, UC Berkeley
  • Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, JD, professor of law, UC Hastings College of the Law
  • John Swartzberg, MD, clinical professor, UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program

DETAILS: The current U.S. outbreak of the highly contagious measles virus has recently exceeded 150 cases, 15 years after the disease was considered eradicated in this country. The virus’s comeback, largely tied to exposure at Disneyland, has been blamed on the rise of unvaccinated and undervaccinated children, particularly in California where “personal belief 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 would end this exemption. If passed, only medical exemptions to vaccinations would be allowed.