The vaccine fight: a mother’s battle to protect her daughter in California

The vaccine fight: a mother’s battle to protect her daughter in California

September 21, 2019 42 By Stanley Isaacs


-Are you making him all better?
Good job. -My daughter, Brooke,
when she was an infant, was diagnosed with
dilated cardiomyopathy, which means her heart
is enlarged three times the size it should have been, and there were really
no other options besides a heart transplant. -Want to go take a break? She’s like, “Uh, no.” -We’re so thankful for this gift
of a new heart, but it’s always
a delicate balance. It’s kind of we’ve been through
the wringer and come to the other side where
she can live a normal life. -Look at you now, young lady!
Oh, my gosh. How are you?
-Good. -Are you here to pick
up the balance? -At 10 years old, Brooke Balck has already
survived several health battles. And while most children
are protected from illnesses like measles
and whooping cough because they’re vaccinated,
Brooke is always at risk. -She takes immunosuppressant
medications, and her body
could not fight a vaccination. Can you see Catalina? -Catalina.
Is it way out there? -See it’s kind of hazy
right there? -Yeah. -See if you can
focus in on that. -The only thing keeping her safe
from diseases like measles
is herd immunity. That means she has to be
surrounded by a community where about 95% of the
population has been vaccinated. -In public school, we worry
that there could be somebody who brings in a disease
that’s previously eradicated. Actually, somebody came into
Brooke’s doctor’s office with the measles, and, so, when that happened,
Brooke and all other children like her
needed to stay home from school. They couldn’t go to school
for two months, which meant I needed
to stay home with her. I’m a 5th-grade teacher, which means I have to have
a substitute in my class, and I’m paying
for that substitute to keep my daughter home
and safe because anywhere she goes
in the community is a potential lethal disease. -Many parents think of measles
as just a common nuisance which makes their children
feel miserable and keeps them out of school
for a while. But physicians today know that
measles is more than a nuisance. -Before the measles vaccine,
the illness killed 400 to 500 people every year
in the United States and caused brain damage
to others. -But the real story of a vaccine
is told in the fears and smiles of a little girl, who today is given
greater protection than ever before against the infectious
diseases of childhood. -Measles is a highly
contagious disease. People with the illness
can infect others for up to eight days, and it lives in the air
for up to two hours. The disease was declared
eliminated in the U. S. in the year 2000, but 14 years
later, the outbreaks returned. -The measles outbreak that has
been traced to Disneyland continues to grow. -Back in December 2014, someone brought measles
to Disneyland, and it started spreading
in Orange County across the state,
across the country by 2015, and at that time, we recognized
that we’ve had years and years of rising
exemption rates among students, and that we were not safe
against diseases we thought we had conquered. -Vaccines are required
for students to begin school in all 50 states, but at the time of
the Disneyland measles outbreak, California allowed for religious
and philosophical exemptions. -And that’s, ultimately, why we
originally passed the law saying you should get vaccinated
before you enter school, and that’s why we need
to take further steps to be sure we can
protect the public health. So, I, working with my colleague
Senator Allen authored a bill to eliminate
the non-medical exemptions because people have traced those
non-medical exemption rates to places where the outbreak
would spread more rapidly. -California State Senate Bill
277 passed by a wide margin and was enacted in 2016. -It was the biggest sigh
of relief for us because public school should be
a place where kids are safe, and now I felt like they were. -After the law went into effect, vaccination rates in California
increased by 3. 5%, according to a study
by healthcare economists at George Washington University. But some of the counties
that previously had high non-medical exemption rates
for vaccines began to see a striking increase
in medical exemptions. -I’ve seen medical exemptions
that look very inappropriate. We know there are physicians who are advertising
medical exemptions. The California Department
of Public Health has done an assessment. Again, they don’t have
the total information, but they are estimating
probably 40% of all permanent
medical exemptions are probably inappropriate. -And then if you look
at the background of a lot of these physicians, they don’t have a background,
for example, in pediatrics. They don’t have a background,
for example, in infectious diseases. -This is really a pain. Yeah, I would never do this
if it wasn’t for dance. There’s a doctor 20 minutes
away from us who is writing fake exemptions. It’s not hidden. It’s not something
whispered about. It’s talked about openly. I hear people talking about it
at the baseball park — who to go to to get an exemption and how much they charge
for those exemptions, and those are people
who go to my school that are having
those conversations. And, so, I worry. I look at my daughter in a music
class or in an assembly, and she’s just sitting
among random kids, and I don’t know if any of them could potentially
be unvaccinated and what that could mean
to her and her health. -I could get majorly sick
and have to go to the hospital. I don’t think it’s worth faking. I think you could just get shots
because, like, I’ve been to the hospital
enough times where I shouldn’t
have to be going again. -Thank you, dancers. -Now some parents and lawmakers
are trying to put a stop to fake medical exemptions from the halls of the
state capital in Sacramento. But a vocal group of parents
stand firmly on the other side
of the debate. -Why are we here?
! -Our children! -What do we stand for?
! -Freedom! Well, I have a child
who has never been vaccinated because of family history, and he had eczema
when he was born. When my child was sick,
who hasn’t been vaccinated, I keep him out of school. Sure, there’s that chance, um… but children go to school — Children who are that severely
sick with immunocompromise, I mean, they’re going
to school with kids that might have a cold
or the flu, and, so, you know, sure, I want
to protect those children, too, but, um… my child’s not sick, and he’s
not passing it to other people. -[Singing] We shall overcome. I think these parents who are
taking these medical exemptions
are excellent parents. I also think that
they’re misinformed, and I think they’re wrong,
and I think what they’re doing is they’re falling prey
to conspiracy theories, they’re falling prey
to misinformation spread by Russian bots, and they’re not following
the scientific evidence. They’re not following
conventional medical advice. That’s the problem. -We’re zeroing in on it, guys. We’re gonna go over as a group
and do our “me, toos.” -Vaccinate California,
led by Leah Russin, sponsored the 2015 bill to eliminate
non-medical exemptions. Now she’s organizing supporters
to stand behind new legislation. -Because we may cut one video
that’s all doctors, and then we’ll cut another
that’s all moms, right? So, last year, when the data
came out showing that the kindergarten medical
exemption rate had jumped again, it had tripled, members
of Vaccinate California and other advocacy groups
and coalition members started talking
and talking with Dr Pan about whether we should
do anything and whether
we could do anything. -Measles causes death. We do not need to see that
in our country and our state. -And as we were watching measles
started spreading. Just this year alone,
we’ve had four outbreaks of measles in California, so we had to start working on
a new piece of legislation, which would impose some
oversight over these doctors that are writing
these fake medical exemptions. -Everybody gets
the same amount of time. -Okay. -Jenny Balck decided to become
politically active for the first time
ever this year because she was so concerned
about this issue. She was asked to tell Brooke’s
story at a hearing on the bill, so she flew in
from Orange County to be there. -There are assembly people who have stated
their opposition to the bill and have retweeted
anti-vaccine talking points. So, I would not be shocked
if one of them would ask something like, “Really? You wouldn’t feel safe having
any of these other children
in class with you?” Just hold your guard and say,
“No, my doctors say no.” -I really would not.
-Yeah, “I really would not.” -What we’re doing with SB276
is providing the information to the public
health authorities. -But this protection
is being undermined. So that they know how many
exemptions are out there, who has them for what reason,
and who’s writing them. So, this is
really about oversight. -And I understand that people who choose not to vaccinate
their children believe that they are doing what is
right for their children, but what they feel is right
for their kids puts my child
in mortal jeopardy every day. We have had whooping cough in
my neighborhood two weeks ago. My daughter does
competitive dance. It was another dance studio
in our neighborhood. It is prevalent. It is everywhere
in our community. -We all went back up
to Sacramento, and there were lines
and lines of people opposing the bill and lines and lines of people
supporting the bill. -I’m a grandmother of four
and a mother of three with a vaccine-injured grandson,
and I strongly oppose this bill. -Thank you.
-I will never consent. -I’m from Orange County,
and I’m begging you to please not pass this bill. I oppose.
-Can I tell you that I oppose the bill? You’re gonna cause a revolution
if this passes. -One opponent of the bill
is Dr Ron Kennedy, an anti-aging psychiatrist
in Santa Rosa. The state medical board is
investigating whether Kennedy improperly
issued blanket medical exemptions. The Washington Post
reached out to Kennedy for comment
on the investigation. He declined. -I am a vaccine-injured
physician, and I oppose this bill. -Vast majority of the doctors
were on our side, but there were a few
who opposed the bill, as well. -It’s basically
“stop and frisk.” You are presumed guilty. In my case, there’s a lot
of misinformation about why I am on probation. -I would point out that,
actually, the one person the medical board
has actually put on probation for inappropriate
medical exemption is Dr Sears himself, who’s here. He also claims to have a list
of quote “vaccine-friendly”
physicians on his website. -Leah Russin is hoping that
if this legislation passes, it can be used as a blueprint
for other states. -These people who are sick
in New York, they’re not just staying
in New York. They’re taking the subway.
That’s fine. They’re
traveling to Pennsylvania. We can trace the disease as
it travels across the country. -Madam Secretary, we have
a motion by Dr Arambula, a second by Mr Bonta. The motion is due passed
as amended to appropriations. With that, Madam Secretary,
please call a roll. -So, these outbreaks
don’t just stay put, and the only way to stop them
is to inoculate the community, and that only happens
when we have laws like this. So, I hope that other states
do follow our lead. -Dr Pan, your bill
has nine votes. It’s out of committee. [ All cheer ] -Thank you, everybody. We did it. -SB276 has to clear
several more hurdles before it makes its way
to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk. Newsom has indicated
that if the bill gets to him, he will sign it into law. -Say, “I’m so cute!”
-I’m so cute! -Okay, I’ll see you later.
All done, video. Say, “Bye-bye, video.”
-Bye-bye, video.