Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that has been on the rise in the United States and internationally. In 2019, there have been more than 700 cases in the United States, making this the second-worst year for measles since it was declared to be eliminated in 2000. Last week, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) confirmed five cases of measles and ordered a quarantine of potentially-infected individuals at two local universities. In response to this measles outbreak in Los Angeles County, today the Board of Supervisors approved a motion authored by Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, and co-authored by Supervisor Janice Hahn, that supports state legislation that would strengthen immunization requirements and directs DPH to report back on comprehensive efforts to prevent measles in the County.
“We have the tools and the medical knowledge to defend against the measles,” said Supervisor Solis. “Science has proven that the measles vaccine works, and it is safe and effective. SB 276 will strengthen existing state law by closing a vaccination exemption loophole that harms children and others with compromised immune systems. Until this outbreak is contained, I urge all LA County residents to notify Public Health officials if they develop symptoms of measles and to abide by all public health orders and directives. Together, we can stop the spread of this deadly disease and eliminate it forever.”
“Getting the recommended two rounds of the measles vaccine doesn’t just protect you— it helps protect the people around you and your community at large,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “If you aren’t already immunized, I urge you to do so as soon as possible and make sure your loved ones do as well.”
California law requires that children receive a series of immunizations before entering public or private school, child care centers, or family child care homes. Children with a physical condition or medical circumstance that prevents them from being immunized can receive a medical exemption. However, no regulatory body in California reviews the validity of exemptions, leaving the decision fully in the hands of physicians. State Senator Richard Pan has introduced Senate Bill 276 (SB 276) to address this loophole. SB 276 requires the State to develop and make available a statewide standardized medical exemption request form, which would be the only medical exemption documentation that a governing authority may accept, and also requires the review of these medical exemption requests to assure that sufficient medical evidence is provided.
Today’s action sends a 5-signature letter to legislative leaders in Sacramento in support of SB 276. The motion also directs the Director of Public Health to report back to the Board of Supervisors in 30 days on their efforts to prevent additional measles cases in LA County. This report will include DPH’s engagement of healthcare providers to support early diagnosis of measles cases and immunization of patients who are not fully immunized, and outreach to communities and schools to share information on the importance of vaccination and how to get vaccinated, with an emphasis on areas with low immunization rates.