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Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Antivaxxers Gain Ground in State Legislatures

 In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.

Before his presidency, Trump pushed the idea, hard and repeatedly.

Unfortunately, other Republican politicians and conservative media figures are increasingly joining up with the anti-vaxxers.   Even before COVID, they were fighting vaccine mandates and other public health measures. 

A wave of lawmakers who oppose vaccine requirements are winning elections for state legislatures amid a national drop in childhood vaccination rates and a resurfacing of preventable deadly diseases.

The victories come as part of a political backlash to pandemic restrictions and the proliferation of misinformation about the safety of vaccines introduced to fight the coronavirus.

In Louisiana, 29 candidates endorsed by Stand for Health Freedom, a national group that works to defeat mandatory vaccinations, won in the state’s off-year elections this fall.

Louisiana’s shift is a sign of the growing clout of the anti-vaccine movement in the nation’s statehouses as bills that once died in committee make it onto the legislative floor for a vote.

Since spring, Tennessee lawmakers dropped all vaccine requirements for home-schooled children. Iowa Republicans passed a bill eliminating the requirement that schools educate students about the HPV vaccine. And the Florida legislature passed a law preemptively barring school districts from requiring coronavirus vaccines, a move health advocates fear opens the door to further vaccine limitations.
In Michigan, the normalization of anti-vaccine views is also unfolding. Eleven lawmakers recently honored discredited anti-vaccine activist and former physician Andrew Wakefield, who is responsible for the retracted research falsely linking autism to vaccines. Nine of those legislators were elected after the pandemic began, including Angela Rigas, a hairdresser ticketed for protesting pandemic mandates at the state capitol.


At a November conference held by Children’s Health Defense, an anti-vaccine group founded by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a Michigan legislative aide cheered Rigas and her colleagues for taking a stand.