In Connecticut and around the country, the debate over childhood immunizations is now a proxy war for Republicans concerned about religious freedom, parents’ rights, and the government’s role in enforcing public health rules such as masks to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
That shift was evident Tuesday, during a marathon legislative hearing on a pair of bills that would make it harder for parents to opt out of vaccinating their children.
“Progressive, Republican ... whatever, it’s not even about that,’' said Rep. Lezlye Zupkus, R-Prospect. “It’s about our children.”
Zupkus said she’s not “an anti-vaxxer,’' adding that her own children have received their required immunizations. “But I, like you, have the right to say what my children get vaccinated with or not,’' she said. “This is not a partisan issue in my opinion. It is about our children and we are their parents.”
Peter Hotez, a pediatrician and global health expert at the Baylor College of Medicine, has studied the anti-vaccination movement. Social media and e-commerce platforms such as Amazon have helped spread the growth of vaccine conspiracy theories and the COVID-19 pandemic has further fueled the skepticism about the government’s public health initiatives.
“What was an anti-vaccine movement became an anti-science movement,’' said Hotez, who was interviewed by phone. “It’s tied to the political extremism of the far-right.’'