Amid the worst measles outbreak in 20 years, Republicans across the country are digging in their heels over bills that would tighten rules on exemptions that allow children to go without vaccines, according to Politico.
Six states now have bills authored by Democrats that would make forgoing vaccines for children more difficult. In nearly all of those states, which include Colorado, Arizona, New Jersey, Washington, New York, and Maine, the bills have faced Republican opposition. Meanwhile, in West Virginia and Mississippi, the GOP has introduced bills that would loosen childhood vaccine laws.
In Washington state, which has one of the biggest measles outbreaks, a bill in the state Senate to narrow vaccine exemptions passed through the health committee without the support of a single Republican. The same thing happened in legislative committees in Colorado and Maine over the past week.
Looks like the GOP is fine with pseudoscience fueling a pandemic of preventable illness! Who woulda thought! As fewer parents vaccinate their children, measles outbreaks have become a bigger problem. In 2019, there have already been 555 cases across the country, just 19 years after the disease was eradicated. This includes one man who was found to have infected 39 people after traveling from New York to Detroit.
New York has been a major locus of the measles outbreaks, particularly in Orthodox Jewish communities that use religious exemptions to get out of vaccination. There have been at least 329 confirmed cases of measles in New York City alone since October. But Republican members of the New York Assembly have pushed back on getting rid of these exemptions. “I’m not a religious leader, and I’m not a scientist either, so it’s my job to weigh both sides,” New York Assemblyman Andrew Raia told Politico.
Actually, no, your job is to listen to scientists and use their research to make your decisions. But GOP-associated groups and figures, from Rush Limbaugh to Tucker Carlson, are still spreading fear and misinformation about vaccines.
“There’s a credulity gap between the parties in regard to science that wasn’t there 25 years ago,” MIT political scientist Adam Berinsky, who studies politicized health issues, told Politico.
Some scientists are worried that legislation could further politicize the issue, widening the divide between the anti-vaxxers and everyone else.
“My concern is that tightening requirements through the political process risks politicizing an issue that we can’t allow to be politicized if we’re going to maintain public health,” University of Michigan political scientist Brendan Nyhan told Politico.