Lawmakers should not spread misinformation about vaccines

Doctor holds syringe with vaccine

Protecting people from getting sick should be the definition of an uncontroversial idea. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like our state legislators agree.

As we head into the 2020 session, Rep. John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction, has introduced a bill barring schools from requiring students to be immunized against disease. He’s become the latest Republican state legislator to fall for conspiracy theories and propaganda about vaccines.

Email records recently uncovered by the group Equity Forward show that fringe groups such as the National Vaccine Information Center and the Association of American Physicians have been working through state legislators’ offices to push anti-vaccine misinformation.

Emily Kirkland
Emily Kirkland

These organizations may sound official, but in reality, they are far-right lobbying groups. Despite its objective-sounding name, the National Vaccine Information Center (originally named Dissatisfied Parents Together) exists to advocate against vaccines based on long-discredited studies and anecdotal evidence. NVIC’s director, Barbara Loe Fisher, is a favorite of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, and has appeared on his show to make the case that vaccines are a stepping stone towards a government-sponsored effort to take over healthcare and bring back eugenics.

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons is a far-right conservative lobbying group that runs a fake “medical journal” not recognized by any academic institution or peer-reviewed publication. They have published authors who claim that climate change is not because of human activity, that HIV does not cause AIDS, and that abortions lead to breast cancer, all of which have been discredited by accredited medical and academic journals.

The email records show that the National Vaccine Information Center worked closely with Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, and Rep. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, on the three anti-vax bills they introduced last session. Irene Pizzi (aka Irene Pi), the group’s state director, provided background information and helped set strategy. The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons weighed in with their own talking points, emphasizing the (minuscule) risks of vaccines and claiming that doctors push vaccines to pad their own pockets, with no mention of vaccines’ enormous public health benefits.

By early March, rhetoric at the Capitol around vaccines had grown so bizarre and overheated that Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, was comparing school vaccination requirements to the government forcibly tattooing ID numbers on people’s arms.

The Health and Human Services Committee passed all three anti-vaccine bills on a party-line vote: HB2470/SB1114 (creating a religious exemption from vaccination), SB2471/SB1115 (requiring medical professionals to provide overwhelming and potentially confusing details on vaccine benefits and risks before each shot) and HB2472/SB1116 (requiring an unnecessary blood test before a vaccination). None of the three bills made it to a floor vote in the House.

But in many ways, the damage was done. The high-profile lobbying campaign around Boyer’s and Barto’s bills contributed to a growing and deeply misleading public narrative about the dangers of vaccines.

Just a few months after Boyer and Barto introduced their bills, a measles epidemic driven by reduced vaccination rates sickened one person in Arizona and hundreds more across the country, leading New York City and Washington to declare states of emergency.

Since then, declining vaccination rates in Maricopa County have contributed to the first outbreak of mumps in many years, and a measles outbreak in Samoa driven by anti-vax rumors has killed 81 people, mostly children under 4. The World Health Organization listed the growing anti-vaccine sentiment as one of the top 10 global health threats of 2019.

Parents shouldn’t endanger everyone’s children by skipping out on vaccinations, which are safe, effective and save lives. And state legislators shouldn’t endanger the state as a whole by spreading dangerous misinformation about one of the most important public health tools we have.

Emily Kirkland is executive director of Progress Now Arizona.

Writer misinterprets simple bill on freedom – it’s not anti-vaccination

I’m writing in response to the barrage of misinformation amplified in the article in the January 17, 2020, Arizona Capitol Times by Emily Kirkland, executive director of the misguided Progress Now organization. She has misinterpreted, and in ultra-paranoia, jumped to mistaken, misguided, silly and embarrassing conclusions, such as anti-vaccinations, conspiracies, climate change, HIV etc., and not about a simple straightforward bill of freedom, parental rights and responsibilities – HB2050. I would like to assist the misguided director of progressive scary thought and your readers about the intent of HB2050.

John Fillmore
John Fillmore

It is not an anti-vaccination bill placed to incite a hysterical pro-vaccination crowd (which seems to be many dedicated, responsible level-headed parents, professionals and likewise concerned people of common-sense thinking) as she attacked in her silly and amusing claims involving far- right lobbying groups. None of those (National Vaccine Information Center, Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, etc.) or any other reasonable and responsible legitimate groups have directed me in the common-sense Parental Protection Bill. This good bill is rather a simple desire to protect, codify and amplify a very important part of pure American belief and a human dignifying argument that no government should have any ability to dictate to its citizens (parents of their children) that they must consume any serum, kool-aid, and edible of any type or likewise tattoo anything on their own or on their children’s bodies. The premise, purpose, and identity of the bill is simply to underscore an individual’s right to protect themselves, their bodies and those of their children.

The bill strengthens pro-vaccination worriers by allowing schools to keep unvaccinated children home during active outbreaks of disease as declared by a local health authority.

Her quick misleading affront to the bill, which has not even had a first read or been assigned to any committee, seemingly claims that our children are properties of our government, our schools, our special interest groups, or other hidden faceless bureaucrats and progressive do-gooders who seem to want to micro-manage our children, our lives, liberties, and responsibilities. This is frightening and alarms me.

All parents want is what’s best for their children and we wish to be able to protect, educate, and raise them in a way reflective of our values and desires, not those of special interests groups, pharmaceutical companies and ultimately the government, which is riddled with special interest groups pumping millions of dollars into a potential trillion dollar vaccine industry.

The major portion of this bill is also “protecting” the foresight to see potential dangers in untested serums into our children. We have the Second Amendment to our Constitution to protect us from governmental overreach, but where is the protection of liberty against bureaucrats’ or progressives’ goofiness and dangerous idealism. No government should ever have any ability to ever demand we need serums, or as Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, so insightfully noted, ghoulishly tattoo on our bodies – the Nazis did that for gawd sakes! – nor force freeze-dried liquids or kool-aids into or on  our children’s bodies. This bill, HB2050, allows personal liberty and protection, a simple parental right to be codified and which would still allow reasonable vaccinations to proceed in protecting our school system while allowing for individual parental control.

I realize that nosy, big government, progressive ninnies do not like personal liberties and reasonable responsibilities to prevail, however this is Arizona and as our great governor Doug Ducey has said, we do things “the Arizona way,” like protect parental rights, personal liberties, and our children.

Rep. John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction, represents Legislative District 16.