It wasn’t just children who were running fevers after the recent measles outbreak at Disneyland. California parents' and lawmakers’ temperatures were also rising over the subject of vaccination legislation.
On April 16, CBS This Morning reported that vaccination opponents lashed out at California State Senator Richard Pan, a Democrat, for sponsoring SB–277; a bill which would eliminate individual religious vaccine exemptions. Pan, who is also a pediatrician, and his staff confirmed to CBS that vaccination opponents sent him threatening emails. Someone on Facebook even made a Holocaust comparison.
“Some of the opposition has unfortunately decided to engage in hate and bullying. That’s not how we should make public policy,” Pan said. He said the purpose of the bill was to protect children from being unnecessarily exposed to serious illnesses.
“I’m focused on getting our schools to be safe,” Pan said.
According to CBS, support for the bill came from people like Carl Krawitt and his 6 year old son, Rhett. Krawitt told This Morning that without the bill, his son would be in danger. His son had been undergoing leukemia treatment and if he were exposed to diseases at school they could be fatal given Rhett’s weakened immune system.
But the anti-vaxxer crowd vehemently opposed Pan’s bill. CBS said roughly 600 individuals packed a hearing on the bill. CBS News correspondent John Blackstone said some opponents protested on “capitol steps,” while “others are lashing out online.”
Blackstone said opponents have “serious concerns over alleged side effects,” and believe that, “parents, not the government, should have the final say” when it comes to vaccination. One woman claimed that requiring her children to be vaccinated in order to attend school was holding their “education hostage in exchange for a coerced medical procedure.”
Most anti-vaccination parents have bought into the unproven idea that childhood vaccines can cause autism, in spite of scientific evidence to the contrary. In 2013, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found even more evidence that childhood vaccines and autism are “not related.” NBC reported the CDC study and said it “adds to years of research showing that childhood vaccines do not cause autism, despite worries” of some parents.
Junk science along with media scaremongering and famous faces like Jenny McCarthy and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., fueled fear of vaccinations and kept concerns alive for many years. Many in the news media eventually reversed course as the scientific evidence that vaccinations are safe continued to mount.
But the California protests proved many still fear vaccinations and some have resorted to personal attacks on Pan. Blackstone highlighted one Facebook user who went so far as to liken Pan’s actions to the Holocaust (the comment has since been removed). That remark was very similar to RFK Jr.’s own attack on Pan’s bill.
Although This Morning did not mention it, on April 7, liberal environmentalist and famous anti-vaxxer RFK Jr. spoke out against Pan’s bill in Sacramento and claimed vaccines hurt people.
“They get the shot, that night they have a fever of a hundred and three, they go to sleep, and three months later their brain is gone,” Kennedy said according to The Sacramento Bee. “This a holocaust, what this is doing to our country.” He had to apologize a few days later “to all whom I offended by use use of the word Holocaust to describe the autism epidemic,” CBSNews.com said.
CBS This Morning could have done a better job by mentioning the scientific support for vaccines in its April 16 segment, but the network’s vaccine reporting has improved in recent years. Though CBS now acknowledges the necessity and safety of vaccines, they have not always done so. In the past they have ignored their own involvement in vaccine opposition.
Despite overwhelming medical evidence, they themselves kept the vaccine discussion alive by taking an unscientific anti-vaccine stance until 2008 – airing multiple stories in a two and a half year period and even aired an interview with Kennedy in which he claimed that the government was involved in a vaccine cover-up conspiracy.