Tag Archives: Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

How the philosophical exemption was lost

A few weeks ago, the state legislature had apparently decided not to open the Pandora’s box of vaccination policy. The general feeling was, let’s let the 2012 law play out a while longer and see where it goes.

And then, for reasons still unexplained, a couple of key state Senators (Kevin Mullin and John Campbell) grabbed that box and threw it open. They amended a barely-related Health Department housekeeping bill, H.98, to include an end to the philosophical exemption on childhood immunizations. The Senate Health Care Committee gave it a mere two hours of hearings, one for and one against; it sailed through the committee and the full Senate.

Even so, it seemed likely that the House would let the amended bill lie. Leadership decided to have the House Health Care Committee hold hearings on H.98, even though the bill was never officially given to that committee. Those hearings were quickly scheduled, and they were quite extensive. At the time, it seemed like a ploy to run out the clock. Even more so as the hearings continued through the penultimate week of the session.

Funny thing, though: the more time passed, the more things seemed to shift entirely. By the end of last week, the momentum was clearly on H.98’s side. A House vote seemed certain and passage seemed likely, if not a sure thing. Monday’s public hearing was a chance for all parties to sound off, without actually affecting the process.

Which brings us to Tuesday, covered in my previous post. The Donahue amendment lost by the narrowest of margins, and then H.98 passed the House with ease.

This time, I’m here to explain why this happened. Not how it happened; you’d have to get John Campbell and Shap Smith into a rubber room and fill ’em full of truth serum to find that out. As for the why, here’s my two cents. Or three, if you prefer.

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Here’s an interesting fact about vaccines

Earlier this week, we had the honor of hosting a real live ***KENNEDY*** right in our very own Statehouse. Yep, RFK Jr. regaled us with his scare stories about the evils of Thimerosal, a vaccine additive containing (a harmless type of) mercury. It seemed a stretch at the time because (1) the autism/Thimerosal “connection” has been thoroughly debunked, and (2) Thimerosal was eliminated from all but one vaccine years ago, and yet autism rates have continued to climb since then.

But here’s something I didn’t learn until today:

The one vaccine containing Thimerosal is not on Vermont’s list of required vaccines.

That’s right. You don’t need a philosophical exemption to avoid the imaginary taint of Thimerosal. Which means that Kennedy’s argument was completely irrelevant to our current policy debate.

In any event, Kennedy seems to have done his cause no good. There’s no sign he moved the needle (sorry); in fact, he may have turned off some undecideds with his overheated rhetoric. Like, for instance, the editorial board of the Times Argus and Rutland Herald:

Kennedy’s strident language added nothing to the debate. He had discredited himself even before he arrived in Montpelier by furthering the damaging and discredited notion that there is a connection between vaccines and autism. The author of the paper asserting that connection has himself admitted to scientific fraud.

But I think it’s worth noting for the record that Kennedy’s bugbear, Thimerosal, has no bearing at all on the philosophical-exemption issue.

The circus came to town

The corridors of the Statehouse were abuzz Tuesday. Seems that all and sundry were talking about the appearance of a real live Kennedy — RFK, Jr. to be precise. He was in Montpelier to testify about the evils of vaccines and the necessity for parental choice as the last line of defense against the predations of Big Pharma and the corrupt regulators in the industry’s pocket, all conspiring to strap ’em down and shoot ’em up.

I believe that’s the mission statement of the Centers for Disease Control. You know, the secret one they chant before their confidential off-site meetings with their Big Pharma masters. Yeah, them.

But I digress. Kennedy, a widely respected environmental activist turned vaccine truther crank, testified before the House Health Care Committee and also held a media briefing. Both attracted overflow crowds. I contented myself with a quiet afternoon at House Government Operations, listening to embattled liquor control chief Mike Hogan defend his honor. Well, not really, but more on that another time.

I decided it wasn’t worth the effort to cram myself into the Son Of A Great Man’s presence because when I heard he was coming to Vermont, I did some reading to find out what he was going to say.

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The barely concealed extremism of an anti-vaccine group

We’re gearing up for another round of the philosophical-exemption debate at the Statehouse. As you may have heard, a State Senate committee is considering a bill that would remove the philosophical exemption for childhood vaccinations. Which has the anti-vaccine community’s knickers in a knot.

Well, they don’t call themselves “the anti-vaccine community,” but that’s exactly what they are. Vermont’s primary anti-vaxx group is the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice (VCVC). It publicly presents itsels as entirely focused on parental choice. From its website:

We are not “anti-vaxxers”… We are dedicated to preserving health choice and informed consent for parents and all Vermonters.

Vaccine movie posterProblem is, the leaders of VCVC just can’t help themselves. Their website prominently trumpets the work of, among others, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., an anti-vaxxer who promotes the discredited vaccine/autism canard and who has called vaccination “a holocaust.”

But if you want to see the real scope of VCVC’s nutbaggery, you ought to follow its Twitter feed. You’ll find links to every scattered anecdotal report of alleged vaccine harm, every fringey “scientific study” attacking vaccine efficacy or safety, every alternative-medicine type promoting their own agendas, and every rhetorical excess about vaccination, doctors, nurses, government, and science.

Here are a few choice examples. Reminder: these are communications from a group that claims NOT to be “anti-vaxxers.”

Let’s start with a ham-fisted attack on Vermont media for the unforgivable sin of reporting the science on vaccines, which is fully as probative as the science on climate change and evolution:

They’d probably call me a sellout too. Problem is, I haven’t seen a dime from Big Pharma. I just happen to believe the massive preponderance of scientific evidence. VCVC, on the other hand, searches through the flotsam and jetsam of junk science.

The study was published in the Open Journal of Pediatrics, one of many “open journals” created by Scientific Research Publishing (SCIRP), which offers “244 English language open access journals.” SCIRP is based on Wuhan, China, and has been accused of being a predatory open access publisher.

Predatory open access publishers don’t provide the editorial oversight of real scientific publishers; they aggressively solicit papers, publish them with little or no review, and then try to bill the authors for publication costs. In other words, their articles are not to be trusted. But if an article calls vaccination into question, VCVC is happy to accept it at face value and promote it.

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