So David Zuckerman gave an emotional speech today.
Two days after the Vermont Senate voted to end the philosophical exemption for parents who don’t want their kids vaccinated, a senator opposed to the change delivered a tearful address about being attacked online, his father’s death and how scientific uncertainty led him to his decision.
… “I have been attacked as being anti-science, not caring for those who are less able to protect themselves and mocked for my profession as being unqualified to make informed comments,” he said.
His reference to “being attacked online” almost certainly included me. After the Senate vote, I criticized Zuckerman’s tactics in trying to derail the bill in question. I said “scientists must be laughing their asses off” at his notion of genetic testing for potential vaccine allergies. I belittled his argument that schools would lose large numbers of students, and said that Zuckerman and his allies were “grabbing at any pretext, no matter how absurd, to preserve the philosophical exemption.”
And you know what? I’m not sorry.
My language regarding the Senator doesn’t hold a candle to the rhetoric used by anti-vaxxers, who’ve accused me and other vaccine supporters of being fascists and tools of Big Pharma, among many other things. They’ve accused doctors who support vaccination — the vast majority of doctors — of being either fools or sellouts. My posts on vaccines have been written in an environment inflamed, in large measure, by those on the other side.
Also, while I’m very sorry for Zuckerman’s loss and respect how it informs his beliefs, (a) I didn’t know any of that at the time, and (b) he’s not the only one who’s suffered devastating personal losses. It happens to a lot of us. My brother would have turned 55 today if he’d lived that long. The circumstances of his death have informed my views on some current issues, but I haven’t played that card in a political debate. (Not that I blame Zuckerman for doing so; there’s a time and place for everything, and he hit his time this afternoon.)
All I could see was Zuckerman’s political effort to preserve the philosophical exemption. I thought his tactics on Wednesday were transparent and not terribly coherent. I still do.