Senator Elizabeth Warren supports vaccines, one of the few politicians who makes her point of view very clear. Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts is currently either leading or close to leading the field to become the Democratic Party nominee for President in 2020. Her support of vaccines should be an important consideration for those who want politicians who are pro-science.
This article isn’t going to be about Senator Warren’s progressive bonafides, because, I don’t usually blog about politics, except in the context of science support or denialism. Vaccine denialism is the bailiwick of the left, right, libertarians, and various other nutjobs and crackpots. These people want to go back to the time of dirt roads, children working when they’re eight, no rules, no regulations, and other such 1700s thinking.
For those of us who care about vaccines, the fact that Elizabeth Warren supports vaccines is important. So, let’s take a quick look.
Dr. Pan seemed to be walking peacefully at the time, not engaging the abhorrent behavior by Bennett during the walk. Dr. Pan appeared to be taken by surprise by the assault since he has had many documented experiences with anti-vaccine crackpots over the years – here’s one where he is verbally assaulted by a woman who claims to be a physician (she’s not, another typical lie from the anti-vaxxers).
Lucky for everyone involved, Dr. Pan was unharmed.
Dr. Pan has been at the forefront of pro-vaccine legislation in California for the past 5 years. He was instrumental in passing SB277, which eliminated personal belief exemptions to vaccinations. SB277 has been instrumental in increasing the vaccination rate in school children in California, which will protect them from dangerous and deadly diseases.
He also has been driving a new law, SB276, which will attempt to reduce the abuse in medical exemptions to vaccines. This abuse has led to a slight downtick in the vaccine uptake in California, and the new legislation will make it more difficult for physicians to write (usually for cold hard cash) fake exemptions for anti-vaccine parents.
As a result, Dr. Pan has been subject to constant harassment, including vile racist memes, a political ad from anti-vaccine crackpot (and fellow Democrat) Robert F Kennedy Jr, and the usual list of logical fallacies and misinformation from the anti-vaccine religion.
When Bennett assaulted Richard Pan, it was just a culmination of the hate-filled rhetoric and violent actions of anti-vaxxers. This is why I have compared the anti-vaccine zealots with pro-gun nuts. They think that violence is their only choice.
Just read some of the more vile comments posted on Bennett’s Facebook page after posting his video (not sure why Facebook doesn’t take it down, but then again Facebook has shown no interest in stopping racism, neo-Nazism, or anything else).
To be fair, some of the comments condemned his actions, but they should have been much more pointed.
Richard Pan is a pediatrician and progressive legislator. His loves children and wants to protect them from diseases that he knows, using his scientific background, education, and experience, will cause grievous harm to the children of California.
I do worry about the violent, racist rhetoric of the anti-vaccine nut jobs. My friend Dorit Rubinstein Reiss was supposed to present at a forum at Loma Linda University in August 2019, but it was canceled because of fear of disruption by the anti-vaxxers.
Let’s be clear about something – Kenneth Austin Bennett assaulted Richard Pan because he had nothing else. He had no science supporting his beliefs. He had no logic. He had nothing, so violence was all he had.
On the other hand, you do not read about pro-vaccine, pro-science people assaulting anyone. You never rarely (if ever) read a comment from a pro-vaccine, pro-science person threatening violence. Because the science and the facts about vaccines are on our side, we don’t have to resort to lies, racist, or violence.
Then again, we don’t generally don’t employ the hateful and violent rhetoric of the right-wing, irrespective of vaccines and science. The fact that Bennett assaulted Richard Pan should be roundly and clearly condemned by every anti-vaxxer – yet all we hear is nothing.
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Anti-vaccine activists consistently try to incorporate other groups’ slogans and statements, such as #MeToo, to increase legitimacy. Rarely, it gets some traction – for example, they have somewhat successfully convinced some Republican lawmakers that their demand to be able to send their children to school without vaccinating them are about “parental rights”, even though they have no parental authority over the classmates that could be put at risk by unvaccinated children.
More often, these attempts fall flat. For example, the anti-vaccine movement tried to build on the black lives matter movement with their own version, “vaccine injured lives matter” – with jarring, painful results, especially from the anti-vaxxer community that skews white and wealthy.
Recently, the anti-vaccine movement has tried to adopt two other slogans. First, it tried to claim that the “my body, my choice” statement used by pro-choice activists can be used to oppose school mandates.
For those living under a rock ( about which, I’d have to ask “why?”), the USA had its so-called mid-term elections, which are state and Federal elections that happen at the halfway point of the US President’s term. Unfortunately, instead of the blue wave, we got more of a blue ripple, where the Democrats barely won the House, with positive and negative results for Team Blue across the country. In California, there was one state Senate election that was interesting to many of us, the re-election of Richard Pan who is a staunch supporter of vaccines.
Yeah, I think RFK Jr is a black mark on the Kennedy name.
Well, none of this nonsense mattered in the election. Richard Pan won his California State Senate seat 68-32% over an anti-vaccine independent, Eric Frame. Admittedly, Senate District 6 is overwhelmingly Democratic – Hillary Clinton won the district by about the same amount over Donald Trump in 2016.
Richard Pan wasn’t the only pro-vaccine candidate that mattered, but as a California citizen who thinks that protecting young children from vaccine-preventable diseases is a critical healthcare issue, I felt that the re-election of Dr. Pan was a great thing for the state.
Congratulations to Richard Pan. I hope he goes far in California politics (if we’re lucky, there may be a US Senate position open in California in 2020, hint hint).
And to Robert F Kennedy Jr. – you’re a science denier and traitor to progressive politics. You’re in bed with Republicans which include in their membership avowed science deniers and vaccine haters, Donald Trump and Rand Paul. Kindly remove your cranium from your colon. Please.
Because most Donald Trump appointees to Federal government department and agencies were filled with incompetent, ethically-challenged, science-denying individuals, his appointment of Brenda Fitzgerald as CDC Director was, more or less, taken by the science and medical community with a sigh of relief. She wasn’t anti-vaccine. She seemed to understand the role of public health in the USA. And she was a doctor. Trump could have done much worse, as we’ve seen in other departments.
Of course, Ms. Winfrey has sent some mixed messages as to whether she will run for president, but as I’ve long ago observed in politics, denials have all the value of “a bucket of warm piss.” But if she did decide to run, I get the feeling, from reading posts across social media, she’d move to head of the class of Democratic candidates for President of the United States. She’d surpass more highly qualified progressive Democrats such as Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand, who both would get my unconditional support for president (as if anyone would care).
So, why am I commenting on potential presidential candidates two years before the election? I’m sure some of you readers are mumbling, “stick to science you dumb feathered dinosaur. That’s why I’m here.”
California State Senator Richard Pan is a physician who was instrumental in leading the charge for SB277, the law that eliminated personal belief exemptions to vaccinations by California school age children. Senator or Dr. Pan, your choice I presume, has been dedicated to the health of children in the state of California, sponsoring bills that attempt to improve the healthcare of children across the state.
Unfortunately, Senator Richard Pan has been the target of violent hateful racism and withering personal attacks across social media. He seems to either ignore it, or like many of us, just stand up to these attacks with reasoned, evidence-based arguments. Not that the vaccine deniers are capable of listening to reason or evidence.
On an episode of his HBO political talk show, Real Time with Bill Maher, Maher repeated his contention that the Republican Party, more generally the right wing of the American political spectrum, is the party of science denialism politics.
One caveat about this article – it is primarily focused on American politics. In many countries, both the left and right accept the consensus on scientific principles like evolution and vaccines. Only in America is science denialism the default position, crossing party boundaries.
Let’s take a look at left vs. right ideas about science, and how each embrace science denialism and pseudoscience. It’s quite a bit more complicated than you can imagine.
Earlier this week, I published an article on the nominee for the Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome M. Adams along with a potential nominee for CDC director, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald. Since then, President Trump made it official, and Dr. Fitzgerald will be the next CDC Director. And the delicious salty tears of anti-vaxxers are flowing freely, since both doctors are clearly pro-vaccine.
Donald Trump’s record on appointments for science and medical positions has been horrific, at best. His choice of Tom Price for Health and Human Services was terrible for healthcare. Anti-science individuals were also appointed to serve as EPA Director and Secretary of Energy. But recently, Trump appointed Surgeon General and will appoint a CDC director, both of whom appear to be good, though not perfect picks.
From a purely non-political standpoint, those of us on the science side wanted a few basics in the new Surgeon General and CDC director:
Have a respectable medical and/or public health background.
Provide full-throated support for immunization programs