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Antivaccine nonsense Medicine Politics

In which my state senator Patrick Colbeck goes pretty much full antivaccine

In Michigan, we have succeeded in decreasing the rate of nonmedical exemptions by requiring parents requesting them to attend an educational session before they can claim such exemptions. Unfortunately, my state senator, Patrick Colbeck, thinks this is a bad idea and has revealed himself to be, if not antivaccine, antivaccine-sympathetic.

A few years ago, I wrote about how vaccine uptake in certain parts of Michigan were—shall we say?—suboptimal and how that was facilitating outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as pertussis. The reason, unfortunately, is because the percentage of children whose parents claimed so-called “personal belief exemptions” to school vaccine mandates was among the highest in the US. Fortunately, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHSS) decided to do something about it. Basically, in 2014, the MDHSS drafted a regulation that was approved by a legislative oversight board that, beginning January 1, 2015, all parents claiming personal belief exemptions to their local county health department office in order to:

  • Be educated by a local health worker about vaccines and the diseases they are intended to prevent.
  • Sign the universal state form that includes a statement of acknowledgement that parents understand they may be putting their own children and others at risk by refusing the shots.

It was such a simple change, but it was effective. Waiver rates began to drop almost immediately and have remained low. Thus far, the new policy has been a resounding success. Basically, Michigan has probably lowered personal belief exemptions nearly to as low as they can go, short passing a law like California SB 277, which eliminated nonmedical exemptions (something that is incredibly unlikely to happen in Michigan any time soon). Hopefully with other campaigns to increase vaccine uptake, we can push the rate even lower.

Unfortunately, ever since the beginning, there have been forces in the state that have opposed this very simple, very effective intervention. They represent an unholy alliance of antivaccine groups, like Michigan for Vaccine Choice, allied with conservative, libertarian-leaning people who don’t like government mandates of almost any kind. It began almost immediately, with legislators trying to pass a law to revoke the education requirement and forbid the MDHSS to impose any similar regulations in the future. They failed in 2015. Unfotunately, they were back in 2017 trying to make measles great again and again, aided and abetted by out-of-state antivaxers. That effort, fortunately, also failed.

Unfortunately, it appears that antivaccine forces haven’t given up, as indicated in an editorial in The Detroit News, first noting the success of the MDHHS requirement:

Nevertheless, the education that parents have received in the meetings has changed their minds. Since the requirement has been in place, there has been a 35 percent drop in waivers, according to state health officials.

Ignorance is not freedom. Lawmakers should support the efforts of health officials to educate parents about vaccination and allow them to make an informed choice.

In addition, the proposed bills would put children who cannot receive vaccinations due to preexisting medical conditions in danger. Vaccinated children protect non-vaccinated children by forming a “herd” community where children with vulnerable immune systems are only surrounded only by those who are immune to certain illnesses and who pose no risk.

“It would be a step back, not just for the children, but for the community as a whole,” Bies says.

Quite right. The bills discussed in the editorial would actually go beyond just reversing the MDHHS vaccine education requirement for school waivers, as I discussed when they were first introduced last year. There is a provision in these bills that would prevent local health officers from keeping unvaccinated children out of school outside of an actual epidemic without the express permission of the MDHSS. (I guess local control is only a good thing when it’s something supporters of this bill support.) That’s right, if this bill were passed into law, if there’s an outbreak at a school that doesn’t fit the definition of an epidemic, local school health officers could not take a very simple, very much desirable step, namely to keep unvaccinated children out of school to protect them and prevent the outbreak from enlarging and spreading. As I said at the time, for the life of me I couldn’t figure out the rationale for this provision, given that the only purpose this provision serves is to endanger children who are not vaccinated, while at the same time inserting additional susceptible children into an environment where a contagious disease is spreading, thus making an outbreak more likely. I noted at the time that, in the case of a small outbreak of vaccine-preventable disease that doesn’t qualify as an epidemic, preventing health officers from taking the reasonable precaution of keeping children not vaccinated against the disease out of school is an excellent strategy to make it more likely that a small outbreak becomes a large one—or even becomes an epidemic. By the time you have an epidemic, keeping unvaccinated children out of school becomes much less effective, as it’s a strategy that works best early in the course of an outbreak.

What led me to blog about this situation yet again is something that strikes close to home. Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I have a state senator who is…well…rather sympathetic to the antivaccine movement. His name is Patrick Colbeck, and I first noted his antivaccine sympathies when I described how on his Facebook page he recommended a screening of an antivaccine movie being held at a local theater and said that he would be there. I then noted that he was the sponsor of the Senate version of the bill discussed in the Detroit News editorial quoted above.

Here he is, unhappy about the Detroit News editorial:

The word “vaccination” elicits different responses from different people (Re: The Detroit News’ Dec. 27 editorial, “Know risks before getting vaccine waiver”). For many, it is viewed as a lifesaver. Vaccines have wiped out crippling and deadly diseases such as smallpox and polio. Others see vaccines as a way to immunize themselves from diseases like chickenpox, which have a much lower fatality rate than, for instance, smallpox.

But there are some people who are concerned about “adverse effects” from vaccines or have religious objections to certain vaccines, such as those developed using aborted human embryos.

OK, right here I’m going to say it. Patrick Colbeck is, if not antivaccine, very antivaccine-sympathetic. He’s parroting the same nonsense that antivaxers promote. Regular readers will note the false equivalence, in which Colbeck appears to accept at face value the exaggerated claims of “adverse effects” of vaccines made by antivaxers and invokes the commonly (and cynical) appeal to “aborted fetal cells” in vaccines. I can’t help but note that the largest and most consistent anti-abortion organization in history, the Roman Catholic Church (and Colbeck is Catholic) has said that the concern about “fetal cells” is not a reason not to vaccinate.

Still don’t believe Colbeck is going further down the antivaccine rabbit hole? Check out his next gambit:

These are not “fringe” concerns as some would have this issue portrayed. In 1986, the federal government passed the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act to compensate families who experience “adverse effects” upon receiving routine immunizations as pharmaceutical companies are indemnified against lawsuits regarding vaccines. To date, approximately $3.6 billion in federal tax dollars has been paid to victims of vaccine injuries.

Um, no, Mr. Colbeck. They are fringe concerns. As for the appeal to the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, I like to point out the many exaggerations and fallacies in the antivaccine narrative about that law.

Next up:

When the state Legislature passed the 1978 law requiring children to be vaccinated before attending school or daycare, it also stipulated that a parent could choose to decline any vaccine due to medical, religious or other convictions. It clearly outlines how a parent exercises that right, and the process doesn’t involve the health department. In 2015, that didn’t stop the Department of Health and Human Services from introducing a new regulation that required parents to listen to a one-sided lecture from a local health department official in order to obtain a vaccination waiver.

As I discussed at the time, the MDHSS regulation was subject to regulatory oversight. The new rule was approved, as such rules must be, by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, a bipartisan legislative committee charged with the legislative oversight of administrative rules proposed by state agencies. Basically, JCAR reviews state agency regulations and, if it takes no action, allows them to go into effect after 15 legislative days. The committee is composed of lawmakers, giving it a legislative imprimatur, but it is not the Legislature itself, thus avoiding the political rancor that can accompany debate on controversial issues. Antivaccinationists have described this as a “stealth move,” but it was entirely legal.

So, yes, Patrick Colbeck is, if not outright antivaccine, very much a fellow traveler with antivaccine activists. Fortunately, he is term-limited. He can’t run for reelection to the state senate this year.

Unfortunately, he is running for Governor. Fortunately, his odds of securing the Republican nomination, much less becoming governor, are long.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

32 replies on “In which my state senator Patrick Colbeck goes pretty much full antivaccine”

Orac writes,

Sign the universal state form that includes a statement of acknowledgement that parents understand they may be putting their own children and others at risk by refusing the shots.

MJD says,

Seems like a good approach…

Shortly, there may be a universal form that includes a statement of acknowledgement that parents and bus drivers understand they may be putting their own children and others at risk by refusing artificial intelligence (AI) assisted driving.

“Safety guilting” is definitely an approach that will make our children more immune to harm.

A little off topic, do they still use lead pencils with rubber erasers in school?

I think you will find that pencil production has shifted to such places as China and India.

Most text composition and much of note-taking seems to have moved to the computer but it is still incredibly difficult to do many kinds of symbolic manipulation in math/science/engineering with a computer.

Until the middle of the 20th century there was lead in the paint on the outside of the pencil and lead poisoning from chewing the pencil was not uncommon. From funtrivia.com

Though I can’t find a link, I think there was also cadmium in the yellow paint** coating the pencils.

** “cadmium yellow” drawing pencils do not actually contain any cadmium these days.

A little off topic, do they still use lead pencils with rubber erasers in school?

I don’t know about schools but when I was in some university exam hall in 2016 there were a lot of students with such pencils, plus axillary erasers and little pencil sharpeners. I saw one young woman with an eraser nearly the size of a hockey puck.

There were even a few young people using fountain pens. I have yet to spot any goose plumes.

jrkrideau writes,

I have yet to spot any goose plumes.

MJD says,

You made laugh out loud with such humor.

Many of the customers at Caribou Coffee were temporarily distracted by my spontaneous laughter, a little embarrassing but personally satisfying. Thx

I have certainly read exam papers that could have been improved through liberal application of an eraser the size of a hockey puck.

I don’t know about schools but when I was in some university exam hall in 2016 there were a lot of students with such pencils, plus axillary erasers and little pencil sharpeners.

Those are graphite pencils, silly.

I saw one young woman with an eraser nearly the size of a hockey puck.

The pros use these.

There were even a few young people using fountain pens.

My shrink does, as well. The last time I saw him, his dominant hand had a giant ink stain on it, which I mistook for an injury.

@ Narad
Those are graphite pencils, silly.
Hey, in many cases the students were engineers; we cannot expect them to appreciate these subtle differences. (Well, chemical engineers excepted)

“A little off topic, do they still use lead pencils with rubber erasers in school?”
Next time you can leave off the preface. You are never on topic.

The regulation was also challenged in court, and federal courts – the district court and the Sixth circuit – upheld it. There was also a state suit, but that’s harder to track – though I assume if it went anywhere, we would know.

It’s disturbing he was willing to go that far.

Is this guy so young that he doesn’t remember the polio epidemics? May he should have to watch The Vaccination Chronicles Clockwork Orange style.

Yes. The Salk vaccine came in during the 1950’s. His parents world remember them, he may never have even heard of them. There has not been a “real” polio epidemic since before he was born.

The Salk vaccine came out about a year too late for me. It didn’t come into widespread use until after I’d already had polio. I tell people that I am about the youngest native born American to have had it that they are likely to meet..

Clockwork Orange Burgess style? or Clockwork Orange Kubrick style? There is a difference you know—having something to do with eyedrops.. .

Clockwork Orange Burgess style? or Clockwork Orange Kubrick style?

I have read the one and seen the other.

I am hanging out for Clockwork Orange Gangnam style.

The (repeated) efforts to strike down the educational element to the regulation are very telling in my opinion. It rather succinctly puts the lie to the anti-vaxxer “informed consent” gambit doesn’t it? And the absurd idea to prevent schools keeping unvaccinated kids out of schools during outbreaks is so contrary to common sense that I can’t even begin to fathom why someone would argue for it.

Well, to the nutjob mind, anything the parents would “learn” in an educational session would be Lies from the Pit of Hell propagated by the Deep State that wants to Enslave Us All.

They’d much prefer that these folks “do their own research”, and we all know what that means …

They’d much prefer that these folks “do their own research”, and we all know what that means …

Yeah…I’m almost surprised there haven’t been calls from the loons to have the educational session replaced with a screening of Vaxxed

The (repeated) efforts to strike down the educational element to the regulation are very telling in my opinion. It rather succinctly puts the lie to the anti-vaxxer “informed consent” gambit doesn’t it?

For anti-vaxxers “informed consent” really means the ability to tell lies without being called on them.

In other news, which I missed because I have spent the last month freezing my backside off far from home, Brian Hooker has written a self-serving letter that has been published in JPANDS.

In it Brian Hooker writes, without a hint of irony: “. In fact, my own paper,6 in which these data were re-analyzed correctly, was retracted, without any scientific rationale, by the journal Translational Neurodegeneration.” Brian, there are two big lies in this paper. Firstly, as numerous people, including myself, have pointed out your statistical analysis was childish and completely flawed from the beginning. Secondly, the retraction notice points out that post publication review had identified holes in your analysis that one could drive a truck through.

But it was a fun read nonetheless. Elsewhere, a certain blog has been fawning over this.

I think I should go back freezing my buttocks off. It sure beats what my usual residence has in store this weekend.

“Sign the universal state form that includes a statement of acknowledgement that parents understand they may be putting their own children and others at risk by refusing the shots. … Waiver rates began to drop almost immediately and have remained low.”

Congrats! You achieved submission through fear and lies! Apparently parents don’t know they can just cross that BS out. Better yet, tell the doc they’ll take the form home and review it with their lawyer first. 🙂

“Sign the universal state form that includes a statement of acknowledgement that parents understand they may be putting their own children and others at risk by refusing the shots.

Is not this an admission of guilt ( probably not the right term) that if a child dies because you did not vaccinate your child then you are responsible for a homicide?

Look who’s back.
I know what several lawyers would have to say to parents bringing home the “statement of acknowledgement” with the hopes a lawyer would get them out of it, and let’s just say it would be short and pungent. At the parents, not the form.

You achieved submission through fear and lies!

Given that every disease we vaccinate against can kill and cause other negative sequelae, that vaccination is excellent at preventing those diseases and that herd immunity protects those too young to be vaccinated and those who can’t be vaccinated, how is a statement that “parents understand they may be putting their own children and others at risk by refusing the shots” lies?

Apparently parents don’t know they can just cross that BS out.

A waiver form is not a contract where you can cross out provisions you don’t agree with.

Better yet, tell the doc they’ll take the form home and review it with their lawyer first.

Any competent lawyer would tell the parents to sign the form and then bill them for wasting his/her time.

Speaking of fringe politicians hoping to jam an antivax bill through their state legislature: it appears that Ohio state representative Christina Hagan’s bill to prevent Ohio employers from “discriminating” against employees who refuse flu shots, remains bottled up in committee (the bill is intended among other things to prevent hospitals from requiring employee flu shots to protect patients).

Hagan (a Trumpian, self-styled Jesus warrior and milloonial*) is also running for Congress, sparking this entertaining column on cleveland.com:

http://www.cleveland.com/opinion/index.ssf/2017/12/christina_hagans_candidacy_wil.html

In response, Hagan has indignantly denounced the column as “anti-Christian” and a plot by supporters of her G.O.P. opponent.

*Wonder if I can trademark that term. 🙂

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