The resurgence of measles in the United States is causing a negative reaction to vaccine critics, from congressional hearings that reveal the spread of disinformation about vaccines to state measures that would make it more difficult for parents to give up their children's immunization.
In Washington, where the worst epidemic of measles over more than two decades has worsened nearly 70 people and costs over $ 1 million, two legislative measures are progressing through a state legislature that will prohibit parents from using personal or philosophical exceptions to avoid immunizing their aged children. Both have bipartisan support despite the strong anti-vaccination sentiment in some parts of the state.
In Arizona, Iowa and Minnesota, legislators first introduced similar measures. Efforts have provoked an emotional, sometimes ugly response from those who protest against what they see as an effort to trample their rights. Opponents of the Arizona bill, who died quickly, described victims of stricter requirements for vaccines such as the Holocaust and likened the sponsor of a Jewish, Nazi bill.
In Vermont, legislators are trying to abolish the religious release of the state four years after the elimination of philosophical liberation. In New Jersey, where legislators are trying to tighten up religious exclusions, the bill for revocation has been completely amended on the floor of the General Assembly.
Although it is too early in the legislative season to say how much of the state's efforts to tighten the vaccinations will be signed in the law, some public health advocates say that the rash of vaccine-preventable diseases leads to a change in public thinking .
"The wave is coming back," says Michelle Mello, Professor of Law and Health Studies and Policy at Stanford University.
Diane Peterson of the Immigration Coalition, a non-governmental group from Minnesota, said that "there is a growing consensus that government authorities take bold action to require all children to be vaccinated, with the only exception being those who can not get the vaccine for medical reasons. "
Against the backdrop of growing public pressure, websites that have been a platform for misleading claims of the anti-vaccination movement are also making changes. Pinterest blocks all vaccination searches to stop the spread of misinformation while Facebook is considering removing anti-vaccination content from its recommendations. YouTube said it also downloads ads from anti-vaccine videos, claiming they are violating its policies against "harmful or dangerous" actions.
The American House and the Senate have scheduled rare bilateral hearings this week and then investigating the causes of the recent outbreaks.
"If vaccine fluctuations continue – or even expand – this can seriously undermine these important achievements," Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) And Patty Murray (D-Wash.) – Chairman of Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Democrats – wrote to federal health officials.
All of these actions are taking place against the backdrop of growing global concerns about vaccine fluctuations, as measles cases have increased due to gaps in vaccination coverage. For the first time, the World Health Organization has identified vaccine oscillation as one of the top 10 global threats for 2019.
There have been no reports of measles deaths since January 1, but the virus can be deadly, especially for children. Nearly 1000 people, mostly children, have died from Madagascar's disease this year, according to the WHO, offering a window of how quickly the disease can devastate a country with low vaccination levels.
In Europe, measles are 20 years old, with 60,000 cases and 72 deaths. One quarter of them are in Italy, where anti-vaccination groups, allied to populist politicians, have won the passage of a law to discontinue mandatory vaccines last year – the law was abolished a little later because of growing measles cases.
Such fears will not disappear soon.
The introduction of competing vaccine bills in state laws reflects the continuing concern about vaccine safety, said Barbara Lo Fisher, who heads one of the oldest and most established anti-vaccine groups, the National Vaccine Information Center.
"You can not take the hammer on people and force them to obey everyone when the risk is not distributed equally," she said, adding that people have different genetic risks.
She argues that parents should have the right to make voluntary decisions without their children being deprived of education. "We think these are parental rights, a human rights issue," Fisher said.
While 11 countries are considering bans on limiting or eliminating vaccinations, its group supports 61 of the 140 state-of-the-art vaccine measures, "which is the number of accounts we have backed up in a legislative session," she said.
Groups like Fischer form their message on individual rights, urging parents, not the government, to decide whether to vaccinate their children – an argument backed by wealthy and well-educated parents who resonate with liberals and conservatives.
Those responsible for protecting public health are against the fact that immunizations are intended to protect entire communities, not just individuals – especially those in the community who can not get certain shots, such as young children and those with immune compromised system. When the degree of immunization falls below a certain level – between 93 and 95 percent for measles – the vulnerable are at a much higher risk. This is a justification that has repeatedly persuaded judges to maintain mandatory vaccination programs.
The implementation of such mandates led to the elimination of measles from the United States in 2000.
As the public memory of terrorism of the measles epidemic has faded, the doubts about vaccines have increased – often driven by discarded claims linking autism with autism. Between 2009 and 2013, the use of non-medical exemptions for kindergartens has increased by 19% nationwide, according to 2014 survey
This created pockets such as the one in Clark County, the epicenter of the state's outbreak in Washington, where prices fell far below the threshold required to create community immunity.
Since the beginning of this year, 159 cases of measles have been reported in the United States – more than the total reported for all in 2017, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All of them are related to travelers who have returned measles from other countries such as Israel and Ukraine.
New York has been trying to hold its biggest outbreak of measles for decades, with more than 200 people getting sick early in October. Texas struggles with an outbreak that infects nine people, including four in Harris County, which includes Houston.
After the outbreak of measles forced Governor Jay Inslee (D) to declare a state of emergency in Washington, Portland, Ore, a school where Rachel Hall's son was a kindergarten, told students, staff members and parents without immunity to measles that they may have to stay home for two to three weeks if there is a case of measles. The school has a large number of unvaccinated children.
Hall hesitated to give his first child to the pictures. "I was trying to do natural birth, hippie-dipi," she said. But she has since immune both her children.
Still, measures to impose stricter vaccine requirements cause fierce resistance. Around 1,000 people in Washington appeared at a public hearing last week in a bill from the State Senate that would remove all personal exceptions for all vaccines. Most were against the bill.
Jill Collier, a nurse, told MPs that he was against the bill because he thought it would harm the doctor-patient relationship. "We can not give an injection for a child and keep their education as a hostage to non-compliance," she said.
The state sponsor Senator Annette Cleveland, a Democrat whose region is at the epicenter of the epidemic, said the measure would reduce the threat of exposure by 75 percent. "I do not know how we have come to the point where we no longer continue to accept the miracle that vaccines continue to be removed from disease," she said in an interview.
Anti-vaccination stories are particularly good at social media because personal anecdotes and sensational content play better than dry recitation of scientific facts, according to a study last year. Although the opponents of the vaccine are a small minority, in the social media they may appear to be a majority.
Anti-vaccination activists are learning to use their power on the public square. More and more people appear at public meetings of a National Vaccine Advisory Group, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which makes recommendations to the CDC and meets three times a year in Atlanta.
The facebook page of a newly formed group, Inundate at CDC ACIP, published a photo of nearly two dozen people at the October meeting over "The Warriors of the Truth About Vaccines Down at the CDC ACIP Meeting."
Linette Marie Barron, who runs the Facebook page, said she had begun as a way of giving voice to parents like her who claim their children have been injured by vaccines. "We want to bring them the stories and science they refuse to see," says 38-year-old Baron of the city of Pell, Ala.
More than 400 people have registered to attend the next meeting of the Immunity Commission on Wednesday.