This week I sent my second son off to serve his Mission for our church. Just as I did for his brother, we prayed, planned, submitted paperwork, packed, had last lunches and fond farewells, all of which are very important things. But, among all of that we did something that was immensely necessary, we spent time and money to get him the proper vaccines to protect him on this journey.
I feel as secure as I possibly can, sending him to another country to serve with limited family contact, and find peace in knowing his father and I have done all we can for the past 18 years to prepare him for this moment. And, we are immensely grateful that vaccines have been a part of that plan since he was born. Right now, as I send one son to Brazil with another already serving in Asia, the world is talking about the coronavirus. If I were a betting woman, I would say that most people, if given the opportunity to receive a vaccine to prevent it, would jump at the chance. I know our family would.
Yet, in recent legislative sessions there have been a variety of bills presented that would significantly impact the level of immunity against vaccine preventable disease. While these bills are well-intended based on the stated motives of their supporters, they could carry unintended consequence for the lawmakers supporting them. That of being “un-elected.”
The basis for the movement to oppose vaccinations and vaccine compliancy has been long debated and likely will continue to be so, but that is not my point. Based on widely available information, any lawmaker considering supporting these types of measures should consider their political future in peril. The Dallas Morning Herald reported that “Texas Republican primary voters in Texas overwhelmingly support school immunization requirements and strongly believe school-entry vaccine requirements protect Texas children” based on a Texas Public Health Coalition survey.
The Republican voters surveyed in Texas also gave strong support to the idea of vaccination rates of schools being made publicly available. Another glaring finding was that a large percentage, 86%, said they support requiring school age children to be immunized to attend public school.
The Texas Republicans in the survey aren’t far off from the national trend. The Pew Research Center found 82% of Americans believe healthy children should be vaccinated to attend public school. Considering the huge influx of new residents to our state, it wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest they carry these same beliefs and will reflect those in their voting behavior.
Every cause has its true believers and in our free country I will stand up for their right to petition their government and speak their truth. That is not the debate here, but one of public health and who is accountable. Best case scenario, lawmakers should be aware of the numbers behind the pro-vaccine voting public and what that means to their political future, especially in light of the changing demographics of our state. Worst case scenario, given the large majority of the voting public that believes vaccines are scientifically proven to protect against disease coupled with the diminishing compliance rate in parts of our state including Maricopa County, an outbreak is not a stretch. It doesn’t take many improperly immunized individuals to upset the balance of herd immunity, as few as 6% of the population can put the rest at risk. Should that occur, fingers will begin pointing. Not to be missed in that will be lawmakers who worked to lessen vaccine policies versus protecting the public health.
Lisa Askey is a mom, business owner, wife, life-long Republican, immediate past president of Chandler Republican Women and current field director for the Susan B. Anthony Foundation in Arizona.