Michael Ollove at Stateline:
Despite the worst measles outbreak in decades, few state legislatures this year have reconsidered the exemptions that families use to avoid inoculating their children.
As many legislative sessions wind down, only Washington state, which has had one of the highest numbers of measles cases, has sent a measure to the governor’s desk.
Every state allows schoolchildren to skip inoculations for medical reasons, such as a compromised immune system or an allergy to a vaccine’s components. And all but three states — California, Mississippi and West Virginia — also give passes to families who claim personal or religious objections to vaccinations.
In many states, that number has been growing. For example, the Houston Chronicle reported this week that nonmedical exemptions granted in Texas rose 14% in 2018-2019, continuing a 15-year upward trajectory.
To be sure, the current outbreak began after most state legislative sessions were underway. But proposals to scale back exemptions that did emerge faced vehement opposition from “anti-vaxxer” groups, which scuttled them in several states.
Dr. Sean O’Leary, a Colorado pediatrician who serves on the infectious diseases committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics, blamed such groups for the failure of a bill in his state.
“The anti-vax groups are loud and pretty organized and have worked for years,” he said.They were organized in Oregon, at Aubrey Wieber reports at The Salem Reporter that legislation to end non-medical exemptions died in the state senate.
[P]olitical spending reports filed with the state Elections Division show that the political action committee of one of the groups most active against HB 3063, Oregonians for Medical Freedom, has received nearly $160,000 in political donations since. A good chunk of that money — $87,443 — came from Portland venture capitalist Jonathan Handley and his wife Lisa. They haven't contributed since 2017.
The Handleys' son was diagnosed with autism and Jonathan Handley wrote a book about a connection between autism and vaccines. Over the years there have been many reports and theories on a connection between vaccines and autism, but the scientific community has repeatedly debunked them.
Oregonians for Medical Freedom is based in Hillsboro and was registered as a nonprofit last February by the law private firm of Andrew Downs, who also serves as legal counsel for the Senate Republican office.
The term "medical freedom" is inherently political. It originated in libertarian circles and is a term used by famed libertarian Ron Paul. Similarly minded groups in several states use the term medical freedom or something similar.
Sen. Sarah Gelser, D-Corvallis, said she is worried the success of the opponents could become a playbook for other issues. The opposition pulled people from all walks of life. Some, Gelser said, were pleasant and respectful... Others, she said, made physically and sexually violent threats, wearing the yellow stars of David and making analogies to gas chambers, communism and Jim Crow laws. "I got this heinous email about being raped and being raped harder," Gelser said. "In the past 24 hours, I have been called a turd sandwich, a whore, the C-word, I have been invited to lick, suck and bite various body parts, some of which I've never heard of."
One of those who became a regular at the Capitol was Raisa Piatkoff of the Russian Old Believer community in Woodburn. Her community is against the bill for religious reasons.