Sheryl Gay Stolberg at NYT:
Following years of declines in measles vaccination coverage, measles cases in 2022 have increased by 18%, and deaths have increased by 43% globally (compared to 2021). This takes the estimated number of measles cases to 9 million and deaths to 136 000 – mostly among children – according to a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
For more than 40 years, Mississippi had one of the strictest school vaccination requirements in the nation, and its high childhood immunization rates have been a source of pride. But in July, the state began excusing children from vaccination if their parents cited religious objections, after a federal judge sided with a “medical freedom” group.
Mississippi is not an isolated case. Buoyed by their success at overturning coronavirus mandates, medical and religious freedom groups are taking aim at a new target: childhood school vaccine mandates, long considered the foundation of the nation’s defense against infectious disease....The legal push comes as childhood vaccine exemptions have reached a new high in the United States, according to a report released last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Three percent of children who entered kindergarten last year received an exemption, the C.D.C. said, up from 1.6 percent in the 2011-12 school year....In 2016, Ms. [May Jo] Perry met Del Bigtree, a former television producer who had partnered on a documentary with Andrew Wakefield, the British doctor behind the discredited theory that vaccines are linked to autism. Their film, “Vaxxed,” took aim at the drug industry and was a hit with Ms. Perry’s group. Mr. Bigtree later traveled to Mississippi to testify on behalf of legislation that the organization was supporting to expand vaccine exemptions.
In an interview, Mr. Bigtree said the success of the film prompted him to found the Informed Consent Action Network. The group, based in Texas and known by the acronym ICAN, says its mission is to give people “the authority over your health choices and those of your children” and to put an end to “medical coercion.” It funded the Mississippi lawsuit, and tax filings show it spends millions of dollars on legal work
Mr. Bigtree says his work is nonpartisan. But on Jan. 6, 2021, he addressed a “medical freedom” rally not far from the pro-Trump crowd that stormed the U.S. Capitol.