March of Dimes California Honored Senator Ben Allen for his Work to Ensure that Children in California Have More Protection from Vaccine Preventable Diseases

Legislative Champion and Volunteer Champion Awards Presented at March of Dimes Annual Day of Advocacy and Awareness

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


SACRAMENTO, May 17, 2016: Senator Ben Allen (D–Santa Monica) received the 2016 March of Dimes Legislative Champion Award, today, in a special presentation before nearly eighty volunteers and staff at the annual March of Dimes day of advocacy and awareness. Volunteers came from across the state to Sacramento to educate legislators about the March of Dimes mission and advocate for key 2016 legislative initiatives. 

Senator Ben Allen was recognized by March of Dimes for co-authoring SB 277, which eliminated the personal belief exemption from school immunization law. Senator Ben Allen co-authored SB 277 with Senator Richard Pan, who received the 2012 March of Dimes Legislative Champion Award for authoring and getting signed into law AB 395 in 2011 to require newborn screening for severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID).


“I am honored to be recognized by March of Dimes, an organization which has been making a difference in children’s health for more than 75 years,” said Senator Allen.


SB 277 became necessary as the number of personal belief exemptions rose by 337 percent in California between 2000 and 2012 and the exemption rates were as high as 21 percent in some communities. For certain diseases, vaccination rates of up to 95 percent are needed to preserve herd immunity and prevent outbreaks. A family refusing to vaccinate an individual child was placing that child at risk and increasing the risk of infection for others in the community, including babies who are born prematurely and those with compromised immune systems. Recent sizeable outbreaks of measles and pertussis (whooping cough) in California, demonstrated that preventable infectious diseases were making dramatic comebacks.


“March of Dimes wishes to recognize Senator Allen’s leadership,” said Gail Margolis, Chair of March of Dimes California Advocacy & Government Affairs Volunteer Committee and Vice President of Government, Business & Community Relations, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “His efforts are helping protect the health of all babies and children – including those who are born too soon or too sick to be vaccinated.”

Also honored today, as one of the 2016 March of Dimes Legislative Champion, was Assembly Member Catharine Baker (R-Dublin), for her leadership and votes on key maternal and child health bills including bills related to immunizations, newborn screening and tobacco control. March of Dimes also recognized two Volunteer Champions: Erin Richardson, from Simi Valley, for her support of SB277 and Cindy Wyvill, from the San Francisco Bay Area, for helping to protect newborn screening and testifying last year against AB 170 when March of Dimes was opposed to the bill. 

Past March of Dimes Legislative Champions Recipients in California

2015 – Assembly Member Weber (San Diego) for ensuring that the state budget restored $4 million in funding for the Black Infant Health (BIH) Program

2014 – Senator Ed Hernandez (D-Azusa) for leading efforts as Chair of the Senate Health Committee to expand access to and improve the quality of health care for women and children

2013 – Assembly Member (now Senator) Marty Block (D-San Diego) for authoring and getting signed into law AB 1731 in 2012 to require newborn screening for critical congenital heart disease (CCHD)

2012 – Assembly Member (now Senator) Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) for authoring and getting signed into law AB 395 in 2011 to require newborn screening for severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID)

Past March of Dimes Volunteer Champions in California

2013 –Dr. Balaji Govindaswami (San Jose), Laura Rothgery (Palmdale) and the Peltier Family (Oceanside) for supporting and testifying their personal experience which helped get signed into law AB 1731 in 2012 to require newborn screening for critical congenital heart disease (CCHD)

2012 – The Mullan Family (San Francisco Bay Area) for supporting and testifying their personal connection which helped enable getting law AB 395 (require newborn screening for severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID)) signed into law in 2011

About March of Dimes

Each year nearly 4,000,000 babies are born in the United States and March of Dimes touches each one of them through research, education, support, and advocacy. March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. Premature birth and its complications are now the leading global cause of death for children under 5 years old.  Premature birth costs the United States more than $26 billion annually, according to the Institute of Medicine. For the latest resources and information, visit or for resources in Spanish, Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. A wealth of educational video resources is available on our YouTube channel.


About March of Dimes California

In 2015, the March of Dimes funded 26 research grants totaling $6 million to California research institutions including UC Irvine and $4 million to the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at Stanford University, the first of five national trans-disciplinary research centers. In 2015, more than $300,000 in community service grant funds will be given to local California organizations in support of the March of Dimes mission. Fundraising special events held in California, such as the annual March for Babies® walks, Signature Chefs Auctions; and, the March of Dimes Celebration of Babies®: A Hollywood Luncheon; raise millions of dollars to fund research, advocacy, community programs, education, and support for moms, babies and families in our communities. Follow our California efforts on Facebook and Twitter.

# # # #