Washington Post: Shock ads, the holocaust and domain squatting: The intense fight over a new California Vaccine Bill

By: Abby Ohlheiser

April 8, 2015

A bill that would tighten California’s vaccination requirements got its first public hearing in the state legislature  Wednesday. Although the proposal — which removes an exemption to the vaccination requirements based on personal belief — is in the early stages of consideration, the debate is already intense.

One Minnesota anti-vaccine group even purchased airtime for what they describe as a “public service announcement” that shows an extended shot of an infant having a seizure, KXTV reported. The 30-second ad aired Tuesday, according to the ABC affiliate.

The infant is identified by the narrator as Lorrin Kain. Kain died at the age of 15, from causes that, her mother Karen says, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program determined stemmed from her vaccinations, the Star-Tribune reported. Karen Kain has since become a prominent anti-vaccine activist who has opposed the expansion and strengthening of vaccine requirements in other states.

The California bill, SB-277, was introduced earlier this year by two Democratic lawmakers, including Sen. Richard Pan, a pediatrician. If passed and signed into law, the bill would also require schools to notify parents of their immunization rates for each required immunization.

Since its introduction, the bill’s opponents have purchased the domain www.sb277.org, which is now the top Google result for the bill number, even above the bill’s text itself on the California legislature’s Web site.

And, on Tuesday, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — a vaccine requirement opponent — spoke at a screening of a film called “Trace Amounts,” which claims to provide evidence of a link between autism and a preservative ingredient used in vaccines. That link is not supported by the overwhelming body of scientific research on the subject and was popularized by a now-retracted and discredited study based on research by British doctor Andrew Wakefield.

“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 is a holocaust, what this is doing to our country.”

Current California law allows parents to decline vaccinations for their children for medical reasons or on the basis of personal beliefs. Parents can opt out of the requirement for children headed to public and private schools, day cares, and nurseries by signing and submitting a form.

A pair of Democratic lawmakers announced that they would propose legislation to make it harder for parents to get that exemption in the midst of a measles outbreak in the state, which began in Disneyland and spread to others, many of whom had not been vaccinated. Although there are a range of different reasons why a child might not receive otherwise required immunizations, the outbreak led to intensified scrutiny of the anti-vaccine movement, which has a few clusters of popularity in California.

As of February, California was one of 18 states that allows for personal belief exemptions to vaccination requirements. As the San Jose Mercury News noted, efforts to eliminate that exemption in Oregon and Washington have failed in recent months.