Drug Industry Money Could Have Influenced Vaccine Debate in Calif.
Opponents of a bill (SB 277) related to childhood vaccine requirements allege that state lawmakers have been influenced by large donations from the pharmaceutical industry, the Sacramento Bee's "Capitol Alert" reports (Miller, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 6/18).
Background on SB 277
The bill would end personal belief exemptions to the state's childhood vaccination requirements.
However, it has been amended to:
- Allow unvaccinated children to enroll in private home-schooling programs that serve multiple families, rather than programs that serve just one family;
- Permit such children to participate in independent study projects that are overseen by school districts but do not include classroom time; and
- Remove a provision that would have required schools to inform parents of immunization rates (California Healthline, 5/29).
The bill was approved by the state Senate in May. In June, the Assembly Committee on Health approved SB 277, sending it to a vote on the Assembly floor (Gorn, California Healthline, 6/10).
Details of Drugmakers' Donations to Lawmakers
A Bee analysis of campaign finance and lobbying reports found that pharmaceutical companies and related trade groups spent about $3 million on lobbying efforts in the 2013-2014 legislative session.
In addition, the industry donated:
- More than $2 million to current Legislature members during the 2013-2014 session, accounting for about 2% of lawmakers' total donations received; and
- More than $500,000 last year to outside groups that campaigned for some current Legislature members.
State Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) -- an author of SB 277 -- received the most pharmaceutical industry money, at $95,150, according to "Capitol Alert." Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) received the second-largest amount, at $90,250.
Reaction to Allegations
Drugmakers and proponents of the bill say there is no connection between drugmakers' spending on campaigns and lobbying and the push to pass SB 277.
Further, lobbying and legislative committee reports from the first quarter of this year do not show any link between the pharmaceutical industry and the bill, according to "Capitol Alert."
Priscilla VanderVeer, senior director of communications at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said, "We aren't pushing this bill behind the scenes." The group is a long-time supporter of vaccinations, but it has not taken a stance on SB 277 ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 6/18).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.