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Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Antivaxxers Lose in Maine

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing disease to spread.

A ballot measure in Maine would have overturned a state law tightening excemptions for vaccinations law and let parent opt of vaccinating their children out for religious or philosophical reasons.  It lost by more than 2-1.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills urged Mainers to uphold the new law, saying the spread of the coronarvirus underscores the importance of getting vaccinated.
 After the COVID-19 virus was identified in China, “one of the first things that public health officials did was begin to work on a vaccine because vaccines save lives,” she said.
The Legislature’s action last year came against the backdrop of a spike in whooping cough cases in Maine.
Maine has one of the highest rates of nonmedical vaccine exemptions in the nation, and officials warned that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination rate among kindergarteners had dropped below 94%. That means half of kindergarten classes are below the “herd” immunity level of 95% immunization, state officials said.
But the antivaxxers keep coming. Alan Greenblatt at Governing:
“They are generally the most aggressive, hostile, rudest and threatening group of people I have ever experienced as a legislator,” Bob Duff, majority leader of the Connecticut Senate, told the New Haven Register Citizen after needing a security escort to leave a forum on the issue last month.
Parents who advocate stronger vaccination mandates in the media and in statehouses can find the experience to be intimidating, says [Erica DeWald, advocacy director for Vaccinate Your Family]. “These people who have lost children can be heckled when they stand up and testify,” she says.
But DeWald and other mandate supporters recognize that they have to try to match the emotion and energy that vaccine skeptics bring to the debate. Making the case clinically is not the same as making it politically.
As opposition to mandatory vaccines continues to grow, countering that movement will require compelling storytelling, not just statistics.
“It’s disappointing to see so many politicians yield to the anti-vaccine people,” says Pitney, the Claremont McKenna political scientist. “They’re buying a few minutes’ peace and quiet by jeopardizing the long-term health of school children.”