An emergency teleconference was convened last week by Rabbi Hershy Z. Ten, President of Bikur Cholim in Los Angeles, in response to a recent measles outbreak that originated in the Los Angeles, Jewish community.
Rabbi Ten tells Matzav.com that as of today, there are 17 confirmed cases of measles in Los Angeles County.
More than 70 Jewish day school faculty and shul rabbis throughout Greater Los Angeles called in to the live forum to learn about the threat measles poses, as well as address the legality of Jewish day-schools and shuls to create polices that go beyond the current vaccination legislation which requires all students to be vaccinated regardless of their personal beliefs.
“We are urging our schools and synagogues to immediately implement new policies for 2017 that will prevent any children who aren’t immunized due to personal beliefs from attending a school or playgroup,” Rabbi Ten told Matzav.com. He further added, “On this issue we must remain resolute in our unwavering dedication to protect the most vulnerable among us from falling prey to an avoidable tragedy.”
The teleconference featured an acclaimed panel of nationally recognized leaders in pediatrics, public health, and constitutional law featuring Erwin Chemerinsky (Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law at UC Irvine School of Law), Franklin Pratt, MD (Medical Director for the Los Angeles Department of Public Health Immunization Program), Dr. Richard Pan (California State Senator, District 6), and Robert Adler, MD (Chief Medical Officer, CHLA Health System at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles).
Dr. Adler, who also served as moderator, explained how non-immunized and infected children can present devastating consequences to fellow students suffering from immunosuppression due to various diagnoses such as cancer, as well as addressed how aggressively measles attacks the most vulnerable population.
Dr. Pratt pointed out that in addition to being extremely contagious, the measles virus behaves as if it is actively searching out the susceptible individuals to infect and that we need 97% – 99% of the population to be vaccinated or have natural immunity; this is referred to as “herd immunity”, which helps to protect the 3% of those who cannot be immunized due to medical reasons.
Dr. Richard Pan spoke about SB 277, the California law he coauthored requiring all children entering kindergarten to be vaccinated with a follow-up confirmation at 7th grade.
Most enlightening, were Dean Chemerinsky’s comments unequivocally stating, “There’s absolutely nothing in the law that prevents a school from setting a strict policy with regard to requiring vaccinations and excluding those who have not been vaccinated. I don’t think it’s any problem to do that in the middle of the year, either; especially in light of a measles outbreak.”