Last week, Colorado Senator Cory Gardner proposed the Vaccine Choice Act, an effort to strip states of the ability to require vaccines for children.
This comes after reports of parents getting exemptions for their children from the state-mandated vaccines for religious reasons. This bill, if passed, would effectively remove this provision of the state laws. It is one step in the legitimization of anti-vaxxer policies and one way the debate moves from state to state and undermines state laws that mandate vaccination on public health grounds.
As we explore the rise of anti-vaxxer populism, one such instance in Colorado comes to light in an action called the Colorado Compassion for Children Rally. The event set up a zone to distribute “childhood vaccines for profit,” which contravenes the state law banning the practice. The pro-vaccine advocates at the Colorado Coalition for Vaccine Choice argue that this action was legal because it was “organically driven,” suggesting people participating independently of each other.
“Vaccine choice proponents here see it as an innocuous event, a kind of cry from the bottom; a call for people to get beyond this idea that people are right to be afraid of vaccines. I think they don’t think about how this event is enacted,” said Dr. Miranda Clair.
To address this kind of policy that advocates of “vaccine choice” often promulgate, the CDC’s Office of Communications has formed the Maternal & Child Health Media Advisory Committee, co-chaired by Dr. Carrie Nahirny, director of CDC’s division of women’s health.
“At the heart of this initiative is a belief that we should be doing more. That requires a conversation. I’ve felt like we really had a void when it came to talking about what we should do when parents choose not to vaccinate,” said Julie Weiss, lead writer of the Maternal & Child Health blog.
Also contributing to the council are genetic counselor Lise Watson, pediatrician Dr. Maria Eikeland, pediatric dentist Wendy Eckert, and sound engineer and mom Jennifer Schatz.
“You have people who are making decisions based on science; you have people who don’t know much about vaccines, and yet they’re reacting, and so it’s tough to see that both sides are equally competent when they’re taking positions that have a lot of information floating around in it,” said Nahirny.
“A lot of people feel just really strongly about their point of view — the community is really supportive,” said Neikeland. “And that’s a really great problem to have.”
MyMaternalHealth.org at the CDC is a partner of ours, and one of the programs we run there is the Maternal & Child Health Research Institute (MCRI).
This institute is dedicated to enabling mothers, who are our most important health care providers, to get the information and advice they need to make decisions about both their health and their children’s health.