After California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill to impose a strict school vaccination law in the United States following a measles outbreak at Disneyland late last year, thousands of parents called representatives and protested at the Capitol.
The Associated Press reported that one state senator decided to briefly close his district office out of concerns for the safety of his staff. Our Kids Our Choice, an advocacy group which rallied against the bill announced that it is considering both litigation and taking the question directly to voters via a referendum. Immediately after Gov. Brown signed SB 277, opponents launched a social media campaign directed at him using the hashtag #HearUs.
The bill was introduced by Democratic Senators Richard Pan of Sacramento and Ben Allen of Santa Monica, who designed it to raise immunisation rates in under-vaccinated parts of the state. California’s overall vaccination rate seems to be sufficient to maintain the ‘herd immunity,’ which stands for the percentage at which enough people are vaccinated to protect the community. However, suburban areas have seen a dramatic drop in immunisations in the past ten years, with some schools having immunisation rates near 50 per cent. A poll revealed that most California adults (roughly 67 per cent) believe enforcing SB 277 is a good thing.
California has joined Mississippi and West Virginia as the only states in the U.S. which do not have a personal-belief exemption for vaccines. Effective the 2016-2017 school year parents must either vaccinate their children or accept the fact that their offspring will be home-schooled. School-age children who claim a personal-belief exemption will have to get fully vaccinated by kindergarten and seventh grade. The law applies to public and private schools, but also to day-care centres. Still, medical exemptions will continue to be available for children with grave health issues.
Governor Brown emphasized that science shows “vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases” and added that “immunisation powerfully benefits and protects the community.” After the measure was passed, John Coleman, a father who claims his six-year-old son was paralysed by a neurological disorder after receiving vaccinations when he was 17 months old, minimised the Disneyland measles outbreak. Coleman claimed “that incident is proof there is no problem whatsoever” and that this disease is “completely under control.” Laura Hayes, a leader in the anti-vaccine movement also said that “once you allow vaccines in, you can’t get them back out.”
Officials of the Nation of Islam are also on the anti-vaccine bandwagon. Minister Keith Muhammad of Oakland said that “our youth must be protected by any means necessary” and pointed out that the movement “will not obey any legislation which hurts our children.” In an interview with The Times, Mr Muhammad said he along with other religious leaders are concerned some vaccines may harm young African American males. He cited a study which indicated that there might be a higher incidence of autism in African American boys who receive the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella).
However, Mr Muhammad is not the only person preaching against the California vaccine law. Hollywood actor Jim Carrey issued a Twitter tirade to his followers in which he called Governor Brown a “corporate fascist” and urged his followers to go to traceamounts.com and watch the “shocking” documentary. The comedian unleashed the series of tweets hours after the bill was signed. “A trillion dollars buy a lot of expert opinions. Will it buy you?” Carrey asked his followers, as he stressed that he is “pro-vaccine/anti-neurotoxin.”
Dr Ford Vox, a physician specialising in rehabilitation medicine wrote in a piece for CNN Opinion that “correlation [between vaccine and autism] is not causation” and that people such as the Canadian-American actor “are sold on the notion that vaccines cause autism.” He opined that people became opposed to vaccination “either because of lack of knowledge or exposure to misinformation” and emphasized that this has led to the re-emergence of measles in various states in the U.S.
Infamous presidential candidate Donald Trump is another advocate for the theory that vaccines cause autism. He claimed vaccines should be given “separately and over an extended period of time” and went on an extended Twitter rant in September last year.