As states try to crack down on non-medical exemptions to school vaccine mandates, antivaccinationists lose it (yellow Star of David edition)

With the Disneyland measles outbreak still going strong and striking far more unvaccinated than vaccinated, it’s not surprising that a discussion has begun in some states about lax policies that permit religious and/or philosophical exemptions. In Oregon, for example, the legislature is considering SB442, a bill apparently originally intended to provide a technical fix to the process for obtaining philosophical exemptions to vaccine mandates by giving parents deadlines to submit the required documentation for non-medical exemptions, but the antivaccine troops became totally riled up when the Senate Health Committee heard testimony on an amendment that would eliminate non-medical exemptions. That Oregon, a state with one of the laxest policies on non-medical exemptions would even consider such a law, even though it probably has a snowball’s chance in hell of passing, is truly amazing. Not surprisingly, the antivaccine crank blog is going absolutely crazy about it, given that it’s in founder J.B. Handley‘s home state.

Similarly, in California, Senators Richard Pan and Ben Allen recently introduced Senate Bill 227, which would repeal the personal belief exemption to school vaccine mandates in California. That, too, is amazing. Consider, this is the land of Dr. Jay Gordon, Robert “Dr. Bob” Sears, and more woo-loving antivaccine naturopaths, pediatricians, and other health care providers than you can shake a stick at, and the legislature is actually considering a bill to eliminate personal belief exemptions. Not knowing the political situation in California that well, I don’t know what its chances are for passage. (Probably not good.) Of course, before the Disneyland measles outbreak, there was no chance that such a bill would even have been introduced for debate.

In response to initiatives such as these, unfortunately, we have stories such as this one entitled Anti-vaccine moms speak out amid fierce backlash:

One is a businesswoman and an MBA graduate. Another is a corporate vice president. The third is a registered nurse.

These three mothers – all of them educated, middle-class professionals – are among the vaccine skeptics who have been widely ridiculed since more than 100 people fell ill in a measles outbreak traced to Disneyland. Critics question their intelligence, their parenting, even their sanity. Some have been called criminals for foregoing shots for their children that are overwhelmingly shown to be safe and effective.

“Contrary to the common sentiment, we are not anti-science,” said Michelle Moore, a businesswoman who lives in the affluent Portland suburb of Lake Oswego with her 2.5-year-old twin girls. “I’m not opposed to medicine, and I think vaccines have a place. We think it’s a medical choice, and it should be researched carefully.”

Unfortunately, where you and I see the arrogance of ignorance, this article is yet another exercise in false balance, in which these antivaccine mothers are presented as being persecuted and not all that ignorant. One thing the article does get right is this:

Anti-vaccination parents include a mix of views – from religious communities to families practicing alternative medicine and libertarians who shun government interference.

Measles and myths: Medical expert addresses skepticism over vaccine
But many are Americans with college degrees living in liberal communities such as Santa Monica or Marin County in California and Portland, said Gary Freed, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan.

We also hear, what we’ve heard so many times before, the “health freedom” trope so beloved of antivaccinationists:

“I have the right to decide what to put into my child’s body,” said Heather Dillard, a mom in Springfield, Missouri, who is also a registered nurse. “Nobody has the right to put toxic chemicals into my son’s bloodstream. That’s taking my rights away, and it’s very scary to me.”

But what about her son’s rights to good medical care and simple preventative measures that will protect him from infectious disease? As was the case with Rand Paul and all the others arguing “parental rights,” the thought that the child might be an independent entity who is not the property of his parents never enters Dillard’s mind. It’s all about her, her, her, as opposed to about her son, and her comment about putting “toxic chemicals into his bloodstream” just shows how little she knows, in addition to this:

Dillard and others say they are not worried about measles because their children have strong immune systems. They cite statistics: Out of the 1,000-plus measles cases in the past decade, there was not a single death.

Not in the US—yet. There was just a death in Germany. An 18-month-old boy who was not vaccinated against the measles developed complications from the measles and died. Germany, it turns out, has been having its own measles outbreak, with 574 cases reported since October and this being the first fatality. Germany is just as developed a country as the US, in some ways more so (universal health care, for instance). Do Dillard and others think that this child didn’t have a strong immune system? If antivaccinationists keep it up, we could soon be reporting our own measles deaths right here in the good ol’ USA.

Meanwhile, in California, a group called Californians against SB 277 has gone beyond the antivaccine dog whistle of equating “forced vaccination” with an attack on freedom and has gone full Godwin (original post removed; but fortunately the text was saved here):

Yes, that picture you see is a photo of someone named Heather Barajas juxtaposed with Jews in Hitler’s Germany wearing the yellow Star of David that Nazis made Jews wear in public in order to make them immediately identifiable with a picture of herself and her daughter with badges consisting of a syringe with a slash through it. Persecution complex much? I mean, seriously, it takes an enormous martyr complex coupled with delusions of grandeur to equate a requirement that children be vaccinated before going to places where there are a lot of other children who can spread disease (you know, like schools, day care facilities, and the like) with the yellow Star of David that Nazis required Jews to wear to make them easier to target for persecution and, ultimately, extermination.

Does Barajas realize how utterly ridiculous she looks? Does she realize how deeply offensive it is to compare her not being able to send her kids to school without getting them vaccinated with the Holocaust?

Barajas concludes thusly:

This is no longer about pro-vax vs. non-vax. This is about freedom of choice for medical procedures. Our bodies belong to us, not the government. Measles is not a deadly disease. It is not sweeping the nation, killing thousands, as the media hysteria seems to have some believing. It’s being used as a scare tactic. It’s being used to turn people against each other.

If SB 277 passes, it will be very bad. Not even homeschooling will be safe, since in CA it’s considered private school. Everyone will be forced to vaccinate, adults as well. They have many new vaccines in the making that you will be forced to get.

I promise you, if you send the message that the government owns your body, you will regret it. What happens if they decide anyone with any kind of mental illness must be force medicated with whatever they deem as best? What if they start making medication that people with certain disabilities must take, whether they want to or not?

Of course, no one is “forcing” anyone to get vaccinated, least of all adults. The state is simply saying that if you want your child to be able to use certain public services, your child has to be vaccinated. As for the “slippery slope” argument, laws are already in place against medical neglect of children (and, make no mistake, not providing appropriate medication and medical treatment for a condition requiring them is medical neglect). The issue is that such laws are all too frequently not enforced properly. So much deference is given to “parental rights” that parents have to let two of their children die of pneumonia under nearly identical circumstances, failing to get them treated, before the state will actually consider throwing them in jail and taking the rest of their children away.

Sadly, the comments after Barajas’ post are enough to make the Baby Jesus cry. You can see why Dr. Bob likes to blow his antivaccine dog whistle so much. He knows what his people like to hear. He just likes to present himself as the “reasonable” face of the antivaccine movement, not like those nuts likening vaccine mandates to the Holocaust or human trafficking.

Barajas, however, is just the beginning. I realize that I’ve covered Nazi & Holocaust analogies in which antivaccinationists portray themselves as the Jews and the CDC, state, and other health authorities as the Nazis, but more keep popping up all the time. With the measles outbreak being in the news, the pace seems to be accelerating. For example:

  • Anne Dachel: Unvaccinated today….Jews 1940 Budapest. In this lovely little ditty, the “media editor” of the antivaccine crank blog known as Age of Autism likens suggestions that the names of nonvaccinating families be made public to…the Jews of Budapest under Nazi rule. Because, you know, what antivaccinationists face today is just like what the Jews of Budapest and elsewhere in the Third Reich faced.
  • The Healthy Home Economist: WIC Threatening Unvaccinated Kids with Starvation. In this post, the HHE likens 2015 America to—you guessed it!—1935 Germany, asking, “Will the unvaccinated be forced to wear the modern equivalent of a yellow Star of David at some point in the near future?”
  • Mike Adams: When MEDICINE becomes MURDER: America’s vaccine narrative now mirrors Nazi eugenics propaganda. It’s Mike Adams. ‘Nuff said. Well, not quite. This one is strained even by Adams’ standards. It features a 1938 German propaganda poster of the “ideal Aryan family,” all blond-haired and blue-eyed sitting on the beach in the perfection of health and compares it to a Pennsylvania poster that shows people showing off their vaccine bandages and reads “Earn your stripe!” It goes downhill from there, likening a poster from today stating that “Flu shots save lives” to a Nazi advertisement lamenting how much a “congenitally diseased or handicapped person” costs the state.

Actually, I must admit that Adams has outdone himself in despicableness, referring to “brain damaged victims of vaccines,” complete with photos.

I can somewhat understand why some parents might resent school vaccine mandates. However, that understanding is tempered by an understanding that children are not the property of the parents and when parents fail in their duty to protect them sometimes the state has to prod them with measures like school vaccine mandates, which don’t prevent the truly committed antivaccinationists from not vaccinating but will usually give fence sitters or those not ideologically committed against vaccinations a push to vaccinate. These measures are not, however, incipient fascism, the overblown analogies to the Holocaust of Mike Adams, Anne Dachel, and Heather Barajas notwithstanding. They just aren’t. The appeal to “health freedom” is an antivaccine dog whistle, and the conflation of vaccine mandates with an intolerable affront to freedom is intentional. After all, who doesn’t value freedom? Even those who are pro-vaccine might be sympathetic to such arguments when they come from someone like Rand Paul or even Dr. Bob Sears. In a perverse way, I almost have to thank Mike Adams and his ilk for taking this dog whistle, cranking the volume up to the point where even humans start to be able to hear its lower frequencies, and inadvertently reducing the “health freedom” argument to its on reductio ad absurdum.

ADDENDUM: It would appear that Heather Barajas and/or Californians Against SB 277 took down the post I was mocking. Fortunately, I saved the photo. Unfortunately, I didn’t save the entirety of the text. (I really should know better. I did save the text of Dr. Bob Sears’ posts that I wrote about.) In any case, here’s the photo, for those who were curious:

Heather Barajas

Heather Barajas, in her extreme hubris coupled with a persecution complex, comparing herself to Jews marked with a yellow Star of David.