Russians Influenced Vaccine Debate Says CA State Senator

 Dr. Richard Pan, who is also a California state senator representing the Sacramento area and a pediatrician, on Friday responded to the release of the study,Weaponized Health Communication: Twitter and Russian Trolls Amplify the Vaccine Debate, published in the American Journal of Public Health

The study looked at tweets between July 2014 and September 2017.  During that time there was a nationwide outbreak of measles which was traced back to Disneyland. The study summary describes the role of Twitter bots in promoting anti-vaccine messages and undermining confidence in vaccination.

In response to the study Dr. Pan said the alleged Russian interference puts communities at risk for outbreaks of preventable diseases and undermines efforts to adopt public policies to prevent such outbreaks. Science proves that vaccines are safe and effective and the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks," he added.

In 2015 Dr. Pan was also behind the introduction of a California Senate bill to abolish non-medical exemptions to vaccination for schools in California in 2015.  That bill eventually became state law but not without considerable protest by people objected to the idea of being required to vaccinate their children in order to place them in public schools.

Dr. Pan said about the study,"(this) research provides evidence that foreign and domestic agents are manipulating social media through bots to discourage vaccination to promote their own agendas; Russian trolls for sowing political discord and commercial and malware distributors for marketing."

The doctor claimed that manipulation of social media to promote anti-vaccine messages by outside agents poses a serious threat to the health and safety of Americans. "This year, I authored (a bill in the California Senate) to begin to address social media manipulation that puts Americans at-risk of harm, and we must defend our country from this threat," Pan.

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