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Friday, November 2, 2018

Vaccines, Autism, and a California State Senate Race

In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.

In next week's election, California State Senator Richard Pan (D) faces antivax fringe candidate Eric Frame.  Sammy Caiola reports at Capital Public Radio:
The two candidates are vying for Pan’s Senate seat in district 6, which encompasses parts of Sacramento and Yolo counties. Pan is a pediatrician known for authoring a law banning the personal-belief exemptions that previously let parents opt out of vaccines for their kids. Now, those parents must get certain shots if they want their children to attend school. And Frame wants to see those exemptions put back in place.
Major health and science organizations have stated that vaccines given to children have only minor side effects. And theories about vaccines causing autism have been debunked.
But a small and active contingent of parents in California still believe in the link between vaccines and autism. Some groups are actively trying to overturn Pan’s law, which took effect in 2016.
Frame is aligned with those groups. “So, when parents are, at the moment, forced to choose to give another vaccine to a child that has already had an adverse reaction, or take them out of public school and figure out a way to homeschool them, I think that’s a terrible choice to have to make,” he said.
Pan received 66 percent of votes in the district’s primary election this past June, and Frame received 13 percent. While Frame is unlikely to beat the incumbent, his messaging is being shared by vaccine skeptics on social media.
Dr. Pan is virtually certain to win by a huge margin.  Two years ago, antivax people attempted a recall effort but could not even get enough signatures to get it on the ballot.