Massachusetts influenza vaccine mandate withdrawn – an analysis

Massachusetts influenza vaccine mandate

This article about why Massachusetts withdrew its influenza vaccine mandate for children was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease. She is also a member of the Vaccines Working Group on Ethics and Policy.

On August 19, 2020, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced that the influenza vaccine will be required from all children “6 months of age or older who are attending Massachusetts child care, pre-school, kindergarten, K-12, and colleges and universities.”

The requirement was only for children attending in-person (not online) education and had a deadline of December 31, 2020. A lawsuit was filed against the mandate, apparently, according to the anti-vaccine organization Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN), funded by that organization, and brought by the law firm they habitually employ, Siri & Glimstad LLP (In 2019, ICAN paid the law firm $1,263,432 for “legal services” out of over $3.4 million the organization took in as income, according to their 990 filings).

After the Massachusetts Department of Public Health pushed off that deadline to February, they decided to withdraw the influenza vaccine mandate on January 15, 2021.

The Public Health Department explains in a letter:

Preliminary data show that this has been a mild flu season to date, presumably as people have received their seasonal flu vaccine and have been adhering to mask-wearing and social distancing due to COVID-19. Given the intensive Commonwealth-wide efforts regarding COVID-19 vaccination, DPH wants to alleviate the burden to obtain flu vaccination and focus on continuing our COVID -19 vaccination efforts. DPH continues to strongly recommend that everyone age six months and older receive their seasonal flu vaccine each year.

ICAN is celebrating this as a victory of their lawsuit. We do not know which other considerations went into the decision, and the lawsuit may have had an effect, if only by adding to the already full plate of the department during a pandemic.

But the reality is that given the jurisprudence on vaccine mandates, and given the deference most courts show public health authorities during a pandemic, if there were good grounds to insist on the mandate, the department would likely have held its grounds. A number of other factors likely fed into the decision, including, as pointed out, a relatively mild flu season (in part thanks to public health measures against COVID-19), Massachusetts stated desire to bring children back to in-person education, which may have led the department to seek to remove barriers, and the need to focus on the COVID-19 vaccine effort.

Plus, it is mid-January. The benefit of being distracted by a fight over an influenza mandate this late is probably less than the harm to other important efforts.

2020 top 10 articles – not all about vaccines and COVID-19

2020 top 10 list

It’s that time of the year, the top 10 articles of 2020 on the Skeptical Raptor website. As years go, 2020 is quite at the level of 1939, when WWII started that killed six million Jews and over 50 million other people, or 1347, the first year of the Black Death, which eventually killed up to 200 million people.

But in my lifetime, 2020 ranks at or near the top 10 of the “years that suck” list. 

Traditionally, I repost the top 10 list of articles that I have written over the past year, but 2020 is different. The news about COVID-19, vaccines, and quack treatments have required constant writing so, I never got to do the reposts. So, I’m just going to list the 2020’s top 10 list of articles.

Please take time to read some of them, repost them if they’re interesting, and comment. It helps this website grow and gets out facts about important science and medical issues that are the target of science deniers.

Continue reading “2020 top 10 articles – not all about vaccines and COVID-19”

COVID-19 vaccine EUA prevented by hydroxychloroquine – myth busted

COVID-19 vaccine eua

This article about how “cures” should prevent a COVID-19 vaccine emergency use authorization (EUA) was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease. She is also a member of the Vaccines Working Group on Ethics and Policy.

I have seen this myth around but haven’t had a chance to respond to it, so I will do it quickly here. No, there is no conspiracy to hide the benefits of things like hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and vitamin D, and no, if they were shown effective, it would not prevent a COVID-19 vaccine EUA.

Continue reading “COVID-19 vaccine EUA prevented by hydroxychloroquine – myth busted”

COVID-19 vaccine liability – what are the legal facts and limits

COVID-19 vaccine liability

This article about COVID-19 vaccine liability was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease. She is also a member of the Vaccines Working Group on Ethics and Policy.

I have been getting many questions about vaccine manufacturers and liability. Here is a short answer. There are limits to the ability to sue manufacturers for injuries from routine vaccines given to children or pregnant women. They are not absolute and are accompanied by a compensation program that is easier to win in than the regular courts.

There are very strong limits on the ability to sue manufacturers of emergency products – not just vaccines. Those are accompanied by a very hard to use compensation program, that provides limited compensation.

Ideally, I would like to see COVID-19 vaccine liability moved to the routine compensation program.

Continue reading “COVID-19 vaccine liability – what are the legal facts and limits”

Dr. Jim Meehan is another anti-vaccine physician who lacks credibility

Dr. Jim Meehan

This article about Dr. Jim Meehan was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease. She is also a member of the Vaccines Working Group on Ethics and Policy.

An anti-vaccine doctor from Oklahoma, Dr. Jim Meehan, wrote an online post about why he would no longer vaccinate his children. It’s pretty clear that his post is not so much a discussion of his own children (most of whom are adults) as an attempt to deter other parents from protecting their children from preventable diseases. His post is basically a set of claims trying to convince parents that vaccinating is very dangerous.

His claims are nothing new – they are strictly out of the anti-vaccine playbook. But the post has received some attention in the anti-vaccine world and was shared several thousand times, likely because many people treat an MD as an authority on the subject. So I decided to take a few minutes to explain why his claims are not good reasons to reject expert opinion and not protect children from disease.

Since then, Dr. Jim Meehan has become one of the go-to anti-vaccine doctors who is trotted out to dismiss the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. Furthermore, he has become a COVID-19 denier, testifying against the use of face masks and claiming that the disease isn’t dangerous. Furthermore, Meehan was forced to settle a libel suit filed by Dr. Eve Switzer.

Dr. Meehan’s claims fall into several categories (which will be discussed individually below):

  1. The diseases we vaccinate against are not dangerous, and it’s okay, even good, to encounter them naturally.
  2. Vaccines have toxic ingredients.
  3. Vaccines are dangerous to children.
  4. The science behind vaccines is corrupt because the pharmaceutical industry controls it and then corrupts it.
  5. We should listen to him because he is a doctor and knows what he is talking about.

Note: Dr. Jim Meehan’s post doesn’t present these claims in that order. I have changed the order because I want to address the claims in a logical order, that is, first his claims about vaccine safety, then the conspiracy theory that underlies them, and finally, his appeal to authorityContinue reading “Dr. Jim Meehan is another anti-vaccine physician who lacks credibility”

University of California flu vaccine order – anti-vaxxers court challenge

University of California flu vaccine

This article regarding the University of California flu vaccine executive order, and a subsequent anti-vaccine activist court challenge, was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

An anti-vaccine organization brought a lawsuit against the University of California’s Executive Order “strongly recommending” flu vaccines for most students, faculty, and staff and mandating it for a specific sub-set. With one possible exception that I am less familiar with, but that the University responded strongly to, the complaint’s claims are unfounded and should be dismissed. Continue reading “University of California flu vaccine order – anti-vaxxers court challenge”

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss – an index of her vaccine articles on this website

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss – Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA) – is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines (generally, but sometimes moving to other areas of medicine), social policy and the law. Her articles usually unwind the complexities of legal issues with vaccinations and legal policies, such as mandatory vaccination and exemptions, with facts and citations.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination–she really is a well-published expert in this area of vaccine policy, and doesn’t stand on the pulpit with a veneer of Argument from Authority, but is actually an authority. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

She was also one of the many contributors to the book, “Pseudoscience – The Conspiracy Against Science.”

Many bloggers and commenters on vaccine issues will link to one or more of her articles here as a primary source to counter an anti-vaccine claim. The purpose of this post is to give you a quick reference to find the right article to answer a question you might have.

Below is a list of articles that Dorit Rubinstein Reiss has written for this blog, organized into some arbitrary and somewhat broad categories for easy reference. This article will be updated as new articles from Professor Reiss are published here. We also may update and add categories as necessary.

Because she has written over 160 articles for this website, there is a vast amount of information about vaccines and the law, I have created a search engine that allows you to quickly find a specific article written by Professor Reiss on this website by using any keywords that you want. This should help speed up your search for just the right article that she has written.


Continue reading “Dorit Rubinstein Reiss – an index of her vaccine articles on this website”

ACIP COVID-19 vaccines meeting – summary of August 2020 discussions

This article about the August 2020 ACIP COVID-19 vaccines meeting was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

On August 26, 2020, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) held an emergency meeting to discuss COVID-19 vaccines. This was an emergency meeting, as opposed to one of its three annual scheduled meetings, but it was not “emergency” in the sense of being unplanned – it was announced long in advance, and the announcement was repeated during the June and July emergency meetings.

The ACIP COVID-19 vaccines meeting consisted of four to five hours of presentations from the COVID-19 vaccines workgroup, convened in April, and one hour of public comments that included multiple pro-vaccine speakers and four anti-vaccine individuals.

The main takeaway most people would have from the meetings are, I expect, the same as mine – that COVID-19 vaccines safety is taken extremely seriously by the workgroup and the committee, that there is still a lot of uncertainty about which of the vaccine in the pipeline will be effective, and that there are thorny, hard questions in deciding how to allocate the first vaccine doses.

This will be a very short overview of the meeting. The next meeting is on September 22, and I encourage and urge people to listen and learn from it. The presentation slides for the previous meetings can be found here. Continue reading “ACIP COVID-19 vaccines meeting – summary of August 2020 discussions”

Vaccine adjuvants – another misguided FOIA request from ICAN

vaccine adjuvants

This article about an FOIA request for information about vaccine adjuvants was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

In August 2020, the anti-vaccine organization, the Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN), posted on their site a letter from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) dated July 19, 2019, under the (misleading) title that “NIH Concedes It Has No Studies Assessing The Safety of Injecting Aluminum Adjuvants.”

As in the past, ICAN’s use of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request result is highly misleading, in at least three ways. First, FOIA is not a mechanism for science query, only a way to get existing administrative records, and this is a misuse of FOIA. Second, there are abundant scientific studies on the safety of aluminum vaccine adjuvants, but this request was not a way to get them. And third, even if there were no studies on the safety of aluminum adjuvants in vaccines, vaccines are tested as a whole, and the safety data on them cover all their ingredients. Continue reading “Vaccine adjuvants – another misguided FOIA request from ICAN”

Evee Gayle Clobes – another tragedy incorrectly blamed on vaccines

Evee Gayle Clobes

This article about the tragic death of Evee Gayle Clobes was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

On March 1, 2019, Evee Gayle Clobes, a six-month-old baby, died in her mother’s bed. Because Evee had received her vaccines 36 hours before her death, and with the urging, courting, and support of anti-vaccine activists eager to use her and her story, her mother blamed vaccines.

However, this tragedy is even less appropriately blamed on vaccines than most, because there is a clear other cause for Evee’s death: According to the evidence detailed in a letter from the medical examiner, Evee Gayle Clobes, sadly, tragically, suffocated to death because of unsafe sleep conditions.

It is horrible to lose a child, and no parent should have to pay such a heavy price for a choice that could be mistakenly thought to be a reasonable one. But blaming vaccines incorrectly here can actively hurt others in multiple ways. Continue reading “Evee Gayle Clobes – another tragedy incorrectly blamed on vaccines”