Antivaccine legislator Sen. Paul Boyer is doing his best to make measles great again in Arizona

I’ve written about Arizona as a hotbed of quackery and antivaccine pseudoscience on more occasions than I care to remember. When it comes to “integrative medicine” (better characterized as the “integration” of quackery and pseudoscience with medicine), how could it be otherwise? After all, the godfather of the modern “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) or “integrative medicine” movement, Andrew Weil, is based at the University of Arizona, and it shows, for example, in the embrace of reiki by the University of Arizona Cancer Center and the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health teaming up with naturopathic quacks. (I know, I know, “naturopathic quacks” is probably unnecessarily repetitious. Naturopaths are by definition quacks.) Then there’s the plethoral of antivaccine quacks based in Arizona, such as the “Drs. Wolfson” (a husband-wife team consisting of antivaccine Phoenix cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson and his wife, chiropractor Heather Wolfson, who is, of course, not a doctor). Not surprisingly, there’s plenty of legalized quackery in Arizona, including The One Quackery To Rule Them All, homeopathy, even homeopaths and naturopaths treating cancer patients. This brings us to Arizona state Senator Paul Boyer, (R-Phoenix), who’s up to antivaccine mischief:

A state senator wants to mandate that parents be told exactly which ingredients and chemicals are in vaccines before their children are inoculated.

The bill introduced by Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, would require that any health professional provide not just the positive effects of vaccinations but also the full list of ingredients and side effects before a vaccine could be administered.

He pointed to a list from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that says vaccines may variously contain phosphate, bovine serum, formaldehyde, fluoride, yeast extracts or human diploid fibroblast cell cultures (cultures of human fetal tissue).

Boyer said he’s not necessarily opposed to vaccinations for children and sidestepped questions of whether he personally believes vaccines are harmful.

First, the observation that Sen. Boyer sidesteps questions on vaccines tells me right away that he’s definitely an antivaxer. If he weren’t, he’d answer the question about whether he believes vaccines are harmful with an emphatic “no,” although a caveat that there are rare serious reactions is also true. Sen. Boyer didn’t say that. He waffled. That’s what antivaxers so.

Antivaxers also say things like this:

But he said there has been an explosion in the number of vaccines that are scheduled to be given to children, going from five in the 1960s to more than 70 now.

This is another common antivaccine bit of exaggeration designed to make it sound as though we’re subjecting children to 70 different shots. It involves counting every antigen in every multivalent vaccine dose given, and even then it’s hard to get up to the number that antivaxers routinely cite.

We also know Sen. Boyer is antivaccine because he invokes a lot of other antivaccine tropes, the first of which is what I like to refer to as the “toxins gambit,” a risibly dumb gambit that seeks to demonize vaccines as being a “toxic soup” of evil based on the scary chemical names and scary-sounding other ingredients that they contain. It’s a gambit that points out, for instance, that there is formaldehyde in vaccines, neglecting to mention that the body makes formaldehyde as a byproduct of metabolism and that an infant’s body contains a lot more formaldehyde than is in any vaccine. I’ve seen it used by Jenny McCarthy, Dr. Jay Gordon, and more antivaccine and antivaccine-adjacent (or antivaccine-adjuvant) people than I can remember. Indeed, Jenny McCarthy led a protest named “Green Our Vaccines,” which assumes the toxins gambit as its very basis; i.e, that vaccines are hopelessly “dirty” and need to be “greened.” Of course, it’s not just formaldehyde. Antivaxers list all the scary-sounding chemicals—just like Sen. Boyer does—even though in the amounts present in vaccines these ingredients are not only not dangerous, but quite safe. It’s the same thing The Food Babe does with foods ingredients, labeling one, for instance, the yoga mat chemical and drops mind-numbingly nonsensical bombs like, “There is just no acceptable level of any chemical to ingest, ever.”

Then there’s the “human fetal parts” gambit, a variant of the “toxins gambit” designed not only to frighten parents in the same way that the “toxins gambit” does, but to bring on board those following a religion that opposes abortion, thus creating an unholy alliance between the antivaccine and anti-abortion movements. Basically, because virus stocks used to make some vaccines are grown in cell lines derived from aborted fetuses and kept in continuous culture for well over 50 years, antivaxers who pull this gambit try to paint this as “aborted fetal parts” being used in vaccines. Never mind that there’s a huge difference between growing viral stocks used to make vaccines in cell lines divorced from their origin by many, many doublings and actually using “fetal parts” in vaccines. Yet, apparently this difference is lost on Sen. Boyer:

“I don’t know that most parents know that bovine extract or animal parts or fetus parts are in certain vaccines,” the legislator said. “And I just think, as a parent, we should know the answer to that.”

The stupid, it burns, and it burns for you, courtesy of Sen. Boyer’s scientific ignorance. He really is a scientific ignoramus, although he’s an unfortunately skilled antivaccine demagogue. One more time: There are no fetal parts in vaccines. There just aren’t. Also, there are no animal parts in vaccines. There just aren’t. As for “bovine extract,” yes, cell lines used to grow up viral stocks are cultured in fetal bovine serum or calf serum. It’s always seemed rather silly to me that this would disgust or frighten people who have far more disgusting contact with cows in terms of eating fast food hamburgers than having vaccines containing tiny residual amounts of bovine serum left over from the manufacturing process.

I also can’t help but note that “informed consent” about “fetal parts in vaccines” is now becoming a favored legislative gambit for antivaccine legislators. My very own thankfully former state senator and representative sponsored a bill very much like this, its key difference being that, instead of focusing on “toxins” and “fetal parts,” it just focused on “fetal parts.” I also point out that vaccines grown from fetal cell lines have prevented billions of cases of infectious disease and prevented millions of deaths. It’s no wonder that even the Catholic Church, about the most anti-abortion of anti-abortion religions, has deemed the use of such vaccines morally acceptable.

If you ever doubt whether the “toxins gambit” is all about demonizing vaccines, ask yourself this: Why aren’t antivaxers like Sen. Boyer just as concerned with minutely listing all the chemical constituents of our food as they are of listing every trace chemical in vaccines?

Next up, Sen. Boyer engages in the “trust parents” gambit:

Boyer said he’s not concerned that providing a list of chemicals in vaccines might work against what the health department is trying to accomplish.

“I think we should trust parents,” he said. “I don’t think anybody should be afraid of more information and what’s in these vaccines we’re giving to our children.”

Of course, my retort is that if Sen. Boyer “trusts parents” so much, why does he put his hands on the scale by providing them with information that is designed to alarm them. What he is peddling is not “informed consent,” as those who’ve dealt with this tactic know:

But former Arizona health director Will Humble said he worries it could lead to fewer parents agreeing to vaccinate their children.

He said parents already are provided with what the CDC has determined they need to know about the vaccines and the side effects, all in a form that is understandable.

Inundating parents with technical information that is not meaningful and potentially confusing won’t help, said Humble, who is executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association. Rather, he said, it will result in doctors having to spend valuable time explaining the technical information instead of talking to parents about things like keeping their children safe at home and in cars.

Exactly. This is what I’ve long called “misinformed consent,” in which parents are inundated with large amounts of potentially frightening but, ultimately, irrelevant information, such as that there are trace amounts of formaldehyde and other chemicals with scary names that are not dangerous in the amounts administered. Another component of “misinformed consent” is to try to terrify them with a large number of rare side effects plus adverse reactions that were observed in clinical trials but, upon investigation, found to be unrelated to the vaccine in such a manner that parents falsely infer that they are risks of the vaccine. This is what I’ve called argument by package insert, and it is a cleverly deceptive way for antivaxers to sound scientific as they frighten parents. What parents don’t know is that package inserts are far more legal than scientific documents, and vaccine manufacturers use them as a CYA strategy.

Humble gets it:

“Where you have ineffective informed consent is when somebody gets something that they don’t understand,” he said.

Humble said a 12-page FDA-approved package insert meant for doctors does nothing to help parents make decisions about the merits of a specific vaccine. Flooding them with data would create unnecessary fears, he said.

It is, as I call it, misinformed consent, and deceiving parents to frighten them out of vaccinating is a feature, not a bug, of misinformed consent, which is what Sen. Boyer’s bill is all about.

Unfortunately, Sen. Boyer is not alone. Regular reader Dr. Christopher Hickle sent me a list of ten vaccine-related bills introduced this legislative session in Arizona, and by far most of them are antivaccine. This list came from the legislative action center of an antivaccine group, the National Vaccine Information Center. I’ve thought of signing up for the NVIC center, but they want my address and too much contact information. Maybe I’ll sign up and use the address of my city’s city hall and a throwaway email address, because in the future I really need to be aware of vaccine-related bills in my state. In the meantime, I rely on Dr. Hickle’s list.

Among the pro-vaccine bills, for instance, there is SB 1201, which would require schools to post vaccination rates on their website. (Naturally, antivaxers oppose it, thus revealing their demands for “transparency” to be one-sided and hypocritical.) Two other bills, HB 5916 and HB 2505, would eliminate nonmedical exemptions to school vaccine mandates or eliminate personal belief exemptions and leave only religious exemptions, respectively. (I’m guessing that in Arizona neither bill has basically a chance of being passed and signed into law.) Among the antivaccine bills one, HB 2472, would allow parents to skip vaccination through “serological proof” of immunity and would require the state to notify parents of available tests. Of course, the NVIC strongly favors Sen. Boyer’s bill.

Arizona is already an antivaccine hotspot, particularly Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix. It’s packed with quacks galore, many of them antivaccine, like “the Drs. Wolfson.” It’s also packed with naturopaths and homeopaths. Now, we have antivaccine legislators trying to make measles great again in Arizona.

Note: Sorry this was so late. It was scheduled to publish at 7 AM, but for some reason it missed it’s scheduled publication time. Because I was in the operating room all morning, I didn’t notice until now. Oh, well…