flu vaccine close-up

Dr. Sameer Bakhda of the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula holds  flu vaccine in January 2018.

The scene was unlike anything state senators had seen in memory as they worked to end the 2019 legislative session on the evening of Friday, Sept. 13.

Just after 5:15pm, as the Senate was voting on a sexual harassment bill, a woman stood up in the gallery above the Senate floor and spilled blood—later determined by the California Highway Patrol, which investigated the incident, to be menstrual blood—onto senators below, according to numerous media accounts by reporters at the scene. Seven members were reportedly splashed with blood.

Several eyewitness accounts report that someone shouted, “This is for the dead babies!”

The chamber was cleared and declared a crime scene. Senators finished the session in a committee hearing room, working until they adjourned at 3am.

A Boulder Creek woman, Rebecca Dalelio, 43, was arrested on charges of assault, vandalism, disrupting state Capitol business, obstructing the use of state property, preventing the Legislature from meeting and disrupting a legislative session. According to a report in the Sacramento Bee, her father told a reporter that his daughter, a mother of seven, is against vaccinations and abortions. Some demonstrators told the Bee they thought she was there to protest another bill regarding abortion pills on college campuses.

Legislators, however, immediately linked the attack to weeks of protests and disruptions by protesters from all over the state who gathered in Sacramento to rail against two vaccination bills authored by one of the senators splashed with blood, Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento.

Senate bills 276 and 714 passed in both the Assembly and the Senate on Sept. 9. They were signed the same day by Gov. Gavin Newsom. That didn’t stop anti-vax protestors from showing up to legislative sessions in the days following.

The two bills together are designed to allow scrutiny of written exemptions by doctors that exclude schoolchildren from vaccinations required for enrollment in public and private schools and daycare facilities for medical reasons. A panel of doctors will be created by January 2021 to review suspicious exemptions.

Pan, a pediatrician, previously authored bills to eliminate personal belief exemptions as reasons for children to not be vaccinated, leaving medical exemptions as the only allowable reason for an exemption.

Since that law took effect in 2016, medical exemptions quadrupled in California. In Monterey County, medical exemptions went up by more than 50 percent by the 2018-19 school year—from 32 to 50—according to the data published by the California Department of Public Health.

Since January, the Department of Public Health has documented 67 confirmed cases of measles, as of Sept. 11. The latest kindergarten vaccination statistics for 2018-19 show the vaccination rate dropped slightly to 94.8 percent since the previous year, just shy of the minimum “herd immunity” level of 95 percent.

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