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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Vaccine News: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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

The Good:

Carmen Forman at Arizona Capitol Times:
Gov. Doug Ducey promised today he will not sign several controversial bills moving through the Legislature that could lead to fewer children being vaccinated.
Ducey said he will not sign any legislation that goes against promoting vaccinations.

“I’m pro-vaccination and anti-measles,” he said.
Specifically, Ducey was referring to three bills proposed by Rep. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, although he didn’t address the measures individually.
The bills would:
  • Expand vaccination exemptions and eliminate a requirement that parents sign a state form in order for their kids to receive an exemption
  • Require doctors to offer parents a blood test to determine if their child is already immune
  • Require parents to be given extensive information about the risks of vaccines, including information that is typically reserved for doctors
Most states also allow exemptions for religious reasons, and 17 states, including Washington and Texas, allow exemptions for both religious and personal or philosophical beliefs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Both Washington and Texas have seen measles outbreaks this year.
Lawmakers in Iowa, New Jersey and Vermont, which already ban personal or philosophical exemptions, are now debating proposals to eliminate religious exemptions.
Proposals in Maine and Oregon would eliminate both exemptions, while measures in Minnesota, Colorado, and Washington state, where there are 66 confirmed measles cases this year, would only eliminate personal exemptions and leave religious exemptions in place.

All of the major medical and health organizations oppose religious and personal exemptions and have for years urged state lawmakers to eliminate them.

The bad:

There are eight cases of measles in Texas so far this year. Sophie Novack at The Texas Observer:
A bill filed in the Texas Legislature this month by Representative Matt Krause, a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, would make it easier for parents to request vaccine exemptions. A similar version was left pending after a House Public Health Committee hearing in 2017, but Krause’s new bill would go further, explicitly preventing the state health department from tracking the number of exemptions. Even though the exemption data doesn’t include anything that could identify individual students and is only available at the school district level, Krause and [State Rep. Bill] Zedler point to fears among anti-vaxxers that they will be tracked and bullied. “We’ve seen instances in California, stuff like that, where they start hunting people down,” Zedler said.
Public health officials say the proposal would curb their ability to identify and stop disease outbreaks, and parents of immunocompromised kids would have even less information to decide where to send their children to school.
“This is the modus operandi for anti-vaxxers in Texas: to promote exemptions, obfuscate and minimize transparency,” said Peter Hotez, a leading vaccine scientist and dean for the National School for Tropical Medicine at Baylor Medical School. “To do this in the middle of a measles outbreak in Texas is especially unconscionable.”

The ugly:

CDC reports 159 cases of measles in the United States this year:

Trends in Measles Cases, 2010-2019