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.
It is not uncommon for anti-vaccine activists, like the Hear This Well group, to misrepresent pending legislation or passed legislation. Striking examples included anti-vaccine activists claiming that SB276, the California law that added a review of medical exemptions, would remove all medical exemptions.
In California, as well, when opponents tried to put SB277 on the ballot, they misrepresented the law by trying to claim it mandated HPV vaccines, which was untrue.
It’s not clear whether the misrepresentations, at least in some of these cases, were out of intentional dishonesty or lack of understanding of the laws or bills in question. The results were the same – misrepresenting the law to others.
Following that tradition, in two posts addressing a newly proposed bill in Colorado, the anti-vaccine page Hear This Well misrepresented the new bill, sometimes just by using hyperbolic, misleading language and sometimes by making clearly incorrect statements.
Anti-vaccine activists have repeatedly claimed that statutes abolishing non-medical exemptions from school vaccine mandates are discriminatory. Some went as far as to compare it to segregation. Courts in California and New York, echoing years of jurisprudence, rejected these claims in recent years in no uncertain claims, making it clear that school mandates are not discriminatory. Continue reading “School vaccine mandates do not illegally discriminate – Prof. Dorit Reiss”
On December 3, 2019, Judge Denise Hartman, from the New York Supreme Court in Albany (see Note 1), rejected a claim challenging the removal of the religious exemption from school vaccine mandates.
Judge Hartman has previously, in a careful decision upheld on appeal, rejected plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction on stricter school vaccine mandates. In this decision, she provided a well-reasoned, thoughtful analysis of the constitutional issues.
Judge Hartman found that the change in the law in New York was based on public health, not hostility to religion, and fits well within the extensive precedent upholding mandates without requiring a religious exemption.
The anti-HPV vaccine crowd is now furious about New York Senate bill S298A, which is now in the Health Committee of that body. Basically, the bill would add the HPV vaccine to the vaccine schedule for all New York children born after January 1, 2008.
As I’ve mentioned before, many of us have observed that the anti-HPV vaccine beliefs are the strongest of them all in the anti-vaccine religion. Even among those who generally vaccinate their children will stop at the HPV vaccine, for reasons that make even less sense than their usual vaccine denial.
In response to the S298A, there has been a lot of nonsense being pushed about the vaccine. One of those anti-HPV vaccine memes reached the claws of this ancient dinosaur.
On July 26, 2019 a second lawsuit was filed against the law claiming it violates the IDEA act by keeping children with disabilities out of school, led by attorney Kim Mack Rosenberg who was involved in arguing against California’s law (though anti-vaccine activist’s Robert F. Kennedy’s jr. organization, Children’s Health Defense, took credit for it as well). Attorney Rosenberg is clearly highly competent, though unfortunately, also very anti-vaccine, and made the best case possible for her claims.
Sometimes, there’s excellent news with the fight to end vaccine-preventable diseases. On 13 June 2019, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo (see Note 1) signed a bill whereby the state of New York ended vaccine religious exemptions.
As a result of this new law, New York joins California, Arizona, Mississippi (yes, Mississippi), West Virginia (ditto), and Maine as the only states that do not allow religious exemptions, that is, allowing parents to claim that their religious beliefs are not compatible with vaccinations.
For New York, the removal of the religious exemption is critical. The center of the current US measles epidemic, which has struck over 1000 individuals, seems to be in the ultra-orthodox Jewish population in the state who have abused the exemptions. This gave us an unvaccinated population, concentrated in a small area, that was susceptible to a highly contagious and dangerous disease.
The tension over the issue was readily apparent in the Capitol on Thursday as hundreds of angry opponents — many with young children and infants — pleaded with lawmakers to reject the bill, sometimes invoking the will of God, other times their rights as parents. The show of raw emotion affected even supporters of the bill.
Assemblyman Michael Montesano, a Long Island Republican, framed the bill as “an attack on people’s First Amendment rights.” He added, “It’s still the individual parent, who is raising this child, that has the fundamental right to decide what happens with their child in all facets of their life.”
As the vote came to a head, emotions were high:
As the Assembly vote slowly came in, the speaker, Carl E. Heastie, was forced to come to the floor and count votes, calling recalcitrant members to coax the bill toward the 76-vote threshold needed for passage. Several prominent Democrats, including the chairman of the health committee, Richard N. Gottfried, bucked Assembly leadership and voted no. In the end, it narrowly passed, 77 to 53.
As soon the vote count was called, shouts of “shame” — and more colorful invective — erupted from the Assembly gallery, where opponents had gathered to watch the proceedings. Assemblyman Jeffrion L. Aubry attempted to restore order, but the screams continued; unable to stop the shouting, Mr. Aubry took the chamber into recess as furious opponents headed into Capitol hallways.
The only shame that I see are recalcitrant legislators not voting to protect the health of children.
Nevertheless, the pro-science, pro-children, pro-health side won. And Governor Cuomo signed it into law.
This is how we stop the measles epidemic and save the lives of innocent children. Vaccines save lives. So thanks – New York eliminates vaccine religious exemptions!
When I was in graduate school, studying real biomedical science as opposed to anti-vaccine pseudoscience, I was a canvasser for Governor Cuomo’s father, Mario Cuomo who was subsequently elected governor of New York. Thus, I was 0.000047% responsible for this bill. You can thank me by buying me a beer.
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In other words, those who vaccinate need to speak up and make it clear to their elected representatives that they want state law to protect their children – and the community – against outbreaks of preventable diseases. The laws will not enact themselves, and our representatives need to know the public wants this protection, that the public does not want high rates of measles cases or other diseases.
For those of you who don’t know about Sharyl Attkisson, she’s a former CBS newsperson who has headed down the black hole of the anti-vaccine movement. She retreads old anti-vaccine tropes, like lame conspiracy theories – Attkisson, according to Orac, “through her promotion of antivaccine conspiracy theories, Sharyl Attkisson was, is, and will continue to be a danger to children and public health.”
So Attkisson’s anti-vaccine trope of the day is this pseudo-math (probably not a real word, but I’m going to use it for this article) about vaccines. Not only are her claims based on fake data, but those claims also rely upon the complete misuse of simple math and statistics.