Sometimes we have to measure the success of a state legislative session, at least in part, by what lawmakers did not do, what bills they killed – usually by assigning bad legislation to a committee whose chair knows a thing or two.

Such was the fate of Senate Bill 454, co-sponsored by Sens. Sue Cline and Rollan Roberts from our neck of the woods, that played to hysteria over fabricated online stories spread by the anti-vaccination crowd. The bill would have imperiled public health, providing exemptions from mandatory immunizations for medical, religious and personal objections.

Appropriately, it was sent to the Health and Human Resources Committee. Its chair is Sen. Mike Maroney, a physician and chairman of radiology departments at two hospitals. The bill died.

Thank you, doctor.

The anti-vaccination movement got its start in the early 1900s, right about the time government started calling for mandatory vaccinations to guard public health. The most recent craze was fed by preposterous and baseless claims across the internet that vaccinations had caused autism in children.

Of course, that is not true. Of course, that is nonsense masquerading as serious research. Of course, when it comes to our public health, that is dangerous.

Social media stories and posts have long quoted a debunked study by Andrew Wakefield. He was paid by lawyers suing for vaccine injuries – an obvious conflict of interest except to all but the blind – and reported the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella contributed to autism, according to a story in The New York Times.

His research? Fake.

The Lancet Medical Journal, which first published Wakefield’s finding, retracted it in 2010, citing ethical research violations and fraud.

Now, according to a new study of over 650,000 children, the falsehood can be buried. The study says that the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine does not increase the risk of autism and does not trigger autism in children who are at risk.

Still, here we are in 2019 and a disease medical officials once thought had been eradicated because of a successful immunization program has been on the rise.

The U.S. is fighting outbreaks in under-vaccinated communities from New York to the Pacific Northwest. Meanwhile, according to The Associated Press,measles cases in Europe doubled from 2017 to 2018 and major outbreaks have hit Japan and the Philippines. The World Health Organization named vaccine hesitancy – “the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines” – as one of the top threats to global health in 2019.

During New York City’s largest measles outbreak in a decade just this past fall, a school in Brooklyn ignored sound advice to lock its doors to any student who had not been vaccinated. The result? One student infected at least 21 other people with the virus.

So, no, Sens. Roberts and Cline, no exemptions because of your religious or personal rights. Public health trumps those cards.

That’s what the good doctor says.

— The Register-Herald

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