Saturday, June 13, 2015

My Day with the Pro and Anti-Vaxxers in Sacramento

Last week, Jazmine, age 13, was game enough to go to Sacramento with me to spend the day. Now we didn't go to the Mall, Museum or to any of the regular tourist attractions. Jazmine went with me to check out a protest against SB277. After the protest, we had pizza in Sen. Richard Pan's office and then she sat for six hours as we watched the Assembly Health Committee debate SB277.

In case you haven't been following the news lately, SB277 is a bill that would require students who attend public and private school in California to be vaccinated for 10 vaccine preventable diseases. It would do away with the "Personal Belief Exemption" that has led to pockets of unvaccinated children through out the Yuppie/Granola/Wealthy pockets of California. I wrote about SB277 for the CNR. An article that, as usual, was disabused and praised, maligned and applauded. Some called it Pro-Vax propaganda. Some called it "balanced". I called it the truth, as I see it.

I worked on that article for 8 months. I first pitched the idea back in October. I read books on both sides of the issue; my G-mail Alerts were set for 8 months to topics like "measles" and "pertussis" and "vaccination". I estimate that I probably read 2,000 articles on the topic. Or, as the Anti-Vax people say: I did my own research.

This is an issue that divides my friends. I have Left leaning friends who hate vaccinations and think that they are just a tool of making money for big business. They think that vaccines cause all sorts of maladies like autism and that they contain poisons like mercury and formaldehyde.  I have Granola Hippy friends that believe in anything natural. They read websites run by Mercola  and GreenMedInfo and other sites that promulgate the "Natural Living Idol" so often found amongst urban liberals who love cannabis, hate GMO's and buy all their veggies at the Farmers' Market. I also have friends who remember what life was like before vaccines. There is an age gap, as the younger you are, the more likely you will be to be Anti-Vax.

I believe in Government and I believe that Government can make a difference in people's lives. It was through Government Vaccination programs that Small Pox was eliminated. Government programs eliminated polio in North and South America. Last month, Rubella was declared to be eliminated in the western hemisphere by Government Action. I believe in public health. As a person with Socialist tendencies, I believe in being Social. I believe in Herd Immunity (although that is not a matter of belief and if anybody argues against the concept you should immediately start edging towards the door because you have run across a person that is totally out-of-touch with reality). I believe that we should vaccinate ourselves so that we can help others.

Reading through the arguments of both sides, I have become a vaccine advocate.

Jazmine and I made it early to the Anti-Vax rally. I milled around--reading the signs. Much has been made that the Anti-Vax Movement is a movement of Mothers. That is obviously true as I roamed amongst all the women in Red Shirts at the Rally.  It is an overwhelmingly White, Middle Class, Educated, Sustainable Living/Gluten Free Movement. It was an influx of Suburban Moms.

I listened to the speeches. I heard Assemblyman Patterson say that not letting unvaccinated children attend public schools was similar to sending kids to Internment Camps or Concentration Camps (he soon backed off of that statement). I heard Assemblywoman Shannon Grove talk about how this bill pretty much is an attack upon our Freedom. This Assemblywoman went on to make the national news by stating that the drought in California is God's punishment of this Jezebel state for actually providing some semblance of access to abortion services.

Assemblywoman Shannon Grove addresses the rally.

And then the Nation of Islam guy, Brother Tony Mohammed showed up. He brought a message from Louis Farrakhan, that the Black Community is against this "heinous bill". It was strange to see all the White Christian Moms who live in all white school districts, applauding the impeccably dressed Nation of Islam guy (with his ever present bodyguard behind him--lessons learned from Malcom X).
His speech was rather stirring.

Then came Brian Hooker. Brian lives in Redding, California and teaches at a Podunk school there with a nursing program that exposes future RN's to Anti-Vax propaganda. Brian is besainted in the Anti-Vax community for outing a secretly recorded tape that purports to prove that the CDC has known about an Autism/MMR Vaccine connection since 2004. He took the stage and went through all the talking points. He had the gall to say that more people die from Vaccinations than from all public infectious diseases. Lots of hyperbole.

Brian Hooker addresses the rally.

Assemblyman Patterson

At the back of the crowd, Dr. Bob Sears hung out. I can pick out Sears in a crowd now, having heard him talk so many times. I had to leave before he talked. And I had to leave before the Rock Star, Barb  Fisher, founder of the National Vaccine Information Center and, really, the person who started the whole Anti-Vax Movement in the US back in 1980. She has made a life of spreading Anti-Vax propaganda.

But Jaz and I had to leave because we had an appointment to have lunch in Dr. Pan's office. It was a few hundred yards, four flights, and a total shift in World View to go to Dr. Pan's office for pizza. The Pro-Vax people were there. One of the founders of Vaccinate California, Leah Russein, who has become a friend through out this ordeal, paced the halls with her toddler in a sling, trying to get the poor lad to sleep. Leah was an environmental aide to Diane Feinstein before becoming a mother and starting this shoe-string organization four months ago. And no, the group doesn't get any money from Pharmaceutical companies. We had lots of pizza but Senator Pan wasn't as available. Or maybe he doesn't like pizza.

Off to the hearing. We were able to secure seats in the Assembly Hearing room. Jazmine and I had decent seats. Behind us sat, Bob Sears. Also Toni Mark, an MD who has said some rather startling New Agey things and has been profiled by Oprah; she was bragging about her role in the anti-vaccine movie that has just come out called "Bought". Brother Tony Mohammed sat behind us too--with his silent body guard

We sat in our seats for an hour before the hearing started. The hearing lasted five hours, before the vote. Dr. Pan and Sen. Ben Allen, endured the whole thing standing in front of the Committee. First the pro-SB277 side talked for 25 minutes; then the Anti-Vax people which included Jay Gordon MD and the afore mentioned Barb Loe Fisher.

Then came the public testimony and around 1,000 Red T-Shirt Wearing Moms (mostly) testified their opposition to this bill. A few of us got up to state our support of the measure. After the parade of Red Shirts that took a couple of hours for them to have their say, the Assemblymembers talked. And asked questions of Dr. Pan.

It was impressive to see them grapple with the issue. Most buy into the science that vaccines are important. Those who were opposed to the bill gave eloquent speeches about parental rights and the like. It was obvious they had put some thought into it. One lawmaker, Autumn Burke, admitted that her own child was being vaccinated on a slower schedule. Burke abstained from the vote. But in the end, SB277 passed the Committee by a 12-6 partisan vote. It now goes to the Assembly floor.

As the vote was announced, it was mostly anti-vax people left. They hollered at the lawmakers "Merck Won". They hollered "Fascists!". Lots of anger. Jazzy and I waited for the crowd to leave. A Seargant at Arms noticed that we were still in the Chamber and was worried for Jazmine and my safety amongst the Anti-Vax crowd. Two of them, big guys, took us aside and led us down a back stairway to safety, away from the crowd that believes that Vaccines are poison and the cause of many problems.

Driving home, sadness descended over me. The world views of the Anti-Vaxxers and the Pro-Vaccine people are so very far apart. There is no middle ground. The AVers inhabit a part of the political spectrum all their own. Some of which I find sympathetic (which is part of the appeal of the movement). What populist isn't Anti-Corporate and Anti-Profit? What Environmentalist isn't sympathetic to all things natural? Things like proper nutrition and boosting the immune system the old fashioned way?

Government isn't exactly a trustworthy Institution. We have the Military/Industrial complexes. We have revolving doors between the CDC and Big Pharma. What self respecting Radical wouldn't be opposed to such things? Government has given us wars. Government has bolstered the wrong industries like Big Oil and enhanced Gas Extraction.

We don't trust Government anymore. We don't trust Big Corporations. The Anti-Vax Movement takes advantage of those warranted concerns.

That's the appeal of the movement. The Rich have always wanted the Poor to endure the risk when it comes to vaccines. Ever since the 1830's, the rich wanted the poor and minorities to get crude vaccinations for small pox. Even back then, the rich wanted to hide in the Herd. Even in the 1850's, the phenomena of Herd Immunity was noticed.

It isn't a very long stretch from the Rich imposing the small pox laws of the 1850's to the Wealthy White Privileged wanting to duck out of being Vax'd in this modern decade. The motives are much the same: Let others bear the risk.

But then you look at the data. The real data. Vaccines are safe. They don't cause autism. And they have helped you to live 30 years longer than prior to their invention. We need them. There is nothing good, or natural, about Whooping Cough or Measles. Diphtheria is back in Spain, it kills one in six and it is a plane ride away.

And there are pockets of rich kids, a reservoir, waiting to be infected. That needs to stop. We need SB277.


  1. Thank you for the interesting account. I noticed a sign in one of your photos that appears to say "Doctors oppose SB-277." These days, you do well to wonder what kind of doctors. Aside from Sears, Mercola and a few others, it's likely referring to "naturopathic doctors" and "doctors of chiropractic" rather than physicians.

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  3. That's interesting cause I'm not wealthy nor am I white. I'm a Mexican/Italian SINGLE mother of 5 who just happens to be immunocompromized. I, like many other immunocompromized patients, was told by my healthcare professional to avoid anyone who has just been recently vaccinated with a live virus vaccine because live virus vaccines shed. My children are school aged and sb277 will have a devastating impact on my family, but because I'm just a wealthy, white, granola hippie, as you stated in your article, I should let the government decide what's best for my family and I?? So now I have 2 options. Option #1, I comply with sb277 and get my children fully vaccinated against diseases that they MIGHT come in contact with so they have a right to a free public education while I sit back and wait for the live virus vaccines, that my doctor warned me about, to kill me, OR, Option #2, I don't comply with sb277 and don't get my kids vaccinated with the live virus vaccines therefore causing my children to LOSE their right to a free public education, and because I'm on a fixed income, I'm not currently blessed with the option to homeschool so my children will then be deemed as truant and I will end up looking at jail time because of their truancy, not to mention the fact that my children will then be placed in foster care because of my incarceration. I should not have to sacrifice my childrens education or myself just to make other people happy, but that's what I will be made to do if sb277 is passed into law. I'm not completely against vaccinations because I know they do help, but in my situation, vaccinations will do more harm then good and it's frightening to know that people like you, don't take people like me in to consideration.

  4. Linda Rosa, To counter the pro-vax claim that there is no science showing that vaccines do more harm than good, I featured about a dozen doctors (MDs, and PhDs, plus one DO and one DC) who are speaking out about the true risk of vaccination that is hidden from mainstream media/medicine. On the page called Systemic Toxicity of Aluminum Adjuvants, there are 6 additional doctors presenting their research on the harm being caused. I find the science research they are presenting quite rigorous. Click on my name see the website.

  5. I was at the rally too-- I appreciate that you have a strong point of view but yet listened respectively to the opposition. The problem, though, is that this isn't really a bill about vaccinations and whether they are good or bad-- it's a bill about what to do about people who opt out of vaccinations. Zero-tolerance policies like this one, while meaning well, could end up spreading more disease. Look at this projection about doctors who refuse vaccine-hesitant patients:

  6. Continued from post above:
    When I married my husband, he had teenage children who are now from early 20s to 30. Their mother, a traditional drug-oriented, Medical Doctor, took the girls to get HPV vaccines when the HPV vax first became available. The mom is is very allopathic, and didn't even factor nutrition/diet in the health of her kids but now all her kids are very aware of nutrition. The youngest step-daughter accompanied me to see RFK, Jr. in San Francisco, the oldest works in Public Health after a Masters from The Kennedy School at Harvard, where Pharma creates the textbooks and supports the studies. She doesn't understand why some of her co-workers won't get their annual flu-shot.
    My step-son lives in Europe and doesn't believe in the vaccination program.

    This blogger states that there is an age gap in the pro vs anti-vax movement. First of all, there is no anti-vax movement being represented at the capitol. Most parents vaccinate. There are a few individuals who are anti-vax perhaps, but they do not identify themselves as a group at the rallies and hearings. T here are many older people in my generation who do remember what it was like. In my graduating high school class of 1969, there were 4000 students in my school. Most of us got measles, chicken pox, mumps. There was even a trench mouth epidemic one summer at camp. Not one of those children died of any of these diseases. We were not all upper or middle class. We had poorer black kids bussed to the high school from 'the other side of town'.

    I know many young people are are pro-vax. My step-daughter who attended the Kennedy talk with me is a scientist, and attended UC Berkeley and now works at NASA. ALL of her young housemates and her workmates are pro-Vaccination. They range in age from 21 - 30. Many of them are vegan, organic, kambucha, camping on weekends at CA hotsprings, and my step-daughter says that she CRIES when she tells them about vaccination. These are the young people I know. Berkeley educated science kids. That's scary. They live communally, on the land, cooperatively, growing their own food - and they are pro-vax. Scares me. Also in my very organic grass-fed alternative community with Waldorf and Montesorri schools as part of the public school system, most of the parents are pro-vax, even though my country has high PBEs.

  7. I doubt you'll publish any of my comments - but final post:
    This article provoked me. Wonder if the blogger was paid to misinform. Most of my step-daughter's hippie friends, colleagues, scientists, law students, etc. high school friends in their early 20s are Pro-VAX. Many of my older friends who lived through the era of much few vaccinations, are anti-mandated vaccinations. We come out of the civil rights and free speech movements.

    The age gap is just one of many major flaws of this blogger's argument. The other is there is now a coalition being formed of hundred of MD, DO and Dentists coming out against #SB277. This coalition will have a presence soon. Many doctors oppose these draconian bills.

  8. Buurd asks if I was paid to write what I did above. No. This is a personal blog. I did get paid to write an article for the Chico News and Review (but not by any drug company). I got paid to write a piece for a weekly alternative newspaper. You can read that here:

    I am an RN. My school in a small town in Minnesota was closed in 1952 with a couple months left of school because of polio. This was 9 years before I was born. I remember the joy we had when we drank the live virus vaccine. I have actually taken care of a polio victim in my nursing career. A young man, unvaccinated, from the Philippines whose parents could not afford the vaccine. This was in the year 2000. Last week, I had a client diagnosed with cervical cancer, now preventable by the HPV vaccine. She doesn't have long to live, most likely. Other nurses I know have watched children die of vaccine preventable diseases like whooping cough and meningitis.

    I worry about whooping cough. We have a semi-effective vaccine that requites a near universal uptake of the vaccine along with regular boosters to be effective. Because most do not get the boosters, and we have large pockets of unvaccinated people, we have had 11,000 cases in California. And 5 deaths. Because I work with lots of ill people, I am at risk. All these anti-vax people put me at an increased risk for this disease.

    I have investigated this "vax injured" alleged epidemic. It is a phantom. I know there are sincere people out there looking for a cause to their children's problems (some seem to have no problems in a bizarre case of projected vax Munchausen's. I've watched those kids parroted to say they are "vax injured" when they are only 8 years of age or younger. That seems abusive to me. Brain washing of the very worst sort.

    When I talk to pediatricians, and I interviewed several, the ALL have never encountered a serious vaccine injury. That includes Dr. Pan. Vaccine injuries are rare. I have a friend who is deaf from mumps. I have a friend who had a heart valve replacement due to scarlet fever. I nearly died from chicken pox and was out of school for over a month recovering. Now we have a whole lot more potential for skin infections than we did when I was an 18 year old. The prospect of Shingles doesn't make me excited.

    I am an RN. Other RN's who refuse to get the flu vaccine are not practicing best practices. It is akin to not washing your hands before seeing a patient. I commend the Crunchy Granola Heads who vaccinate, listed above. I commend the 90 of people who vaccinate their kids.

    For too long the wealthy have skated on getting the poor vaccinated so that they can skate through with herd immunity. This started in the US in the 1850's. It continues today in the AV movement that the CDC stated in 2004 was comprised mostly of White, Older, educated Mom's with an income in the upper 80% of the economic spectrum with either a conservative Christian world view or a preference for natural living. That's the social science of the movement.

    Vaccines are safe. Effective. And to not get them means you have been listening to lies. Or you are anti-social. The irony isn't sparred on me that one of the hashtags of the AV movement is #mine. That's the socialization of a 2 year old. Grow up. Listen to good research. Get vaccinated so that we can end these diseases just like we ended small pox-- a disease that killed 500 million people