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Fiorina: Mother Worried About ‘Aborted Babies’ Shouldn’t Have To Vaccinate Kids

Carly Fiorina might be kicking up a feud with Donald Trump, but it turns out the two both have something in common: They could become the candidates of choice for the deranged anti-vaccine movement.

The Washington Post reports on Fiorina’s appearance at a town hall meeting with voters in Iowa:

Fiorina’s comment came in response to a question from a mother of five children who said that because of her religious beliefs, she will not allow her children to receive any vaccines that were created using cells from “aborted babies.” Fiorina told the woman that parents must be allowed to make such decisions.

“We must protect religious liberty and someone’s ability to practice their religion,” said Fiorina, receiving a round of applause. “We must devote energy and resources to doing so. Period.”

Fiorina also recounted the story of her daughter, who refused to have her own young daughter vaccinated for HPV, a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cervical cancer. “And she got bullied. She got bullied by a school nurse saying: ‘Do you know what your daughter is doing?'” The daughter responded: “Yes. I do, actually.”

Afterwards, Fiorina sought to clarify her position to reporters, affirming that schools really can require vaccines for certain diseases: “When you have highly communicable diseases where we have a vaccine that’s proven, like measles or mumps, then I think a parent can make that choice — but then I think a school district is well within their rights to say: ‘I’m sorry, your child cannot then attend public school.’ So a parent has to make that trade-off.”

Also, as Time reports, Fiorina also criticized her old home state of California for recently passing legislation to eliminate religious liberty exemptions for children being vaccinated. “California is wrong on most everything, honestly. I’m not at all surprised that they made that mistake as well,” she said.

It should be noted that this is not Fiorina’s first time wading into the vaccine-libertarian bog. This past February, as BuzzFeed reported, she voiced a similar skepticism about vaccinating children for HPV — or even for measles — and she touted her own past sicknesses: “I think vaccinating for measles makes a lot of sense. But that’s me. I do think parents have to make those choices. I mean, I got measles as a kid. We used to all get measles… I got chickenpox, I got measles, I got mumps.”

There is in fact a bit of truth to the claim from the woman at the rally, that vaccines are created using cells from “aborted babies.” To be more exact, many modern vaccines are cultured in one of two lines of replicating cells, which have been maintained for 50 years. The origins of those cells were two fetuses that were electively aborted in the early 1960s.

By now, of course, the original fetal cells were used up a very long time ago, while the cell lines continue. But this does raise a question: For someone who believes abortion is so evil and that no benefit should be derived from it whatsoever, what would it matter when the fetal cell line began?

And going back to Fiorina’s point about schools requiring a measles vaccination: The measles vaccine is indeed one of those vaccines that has a basis in fetal-derived cells.

Republican presidential candidate and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina responds to a question at a Fox-sponsored forum for lower-polling candidates held before the first official Republican presidential candidates debate of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign in Cleveland, Ohio, August 6, 2015. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

California’s Measles Outbreak Is Over, But Vaccine Fight Continues

By Rong-Gong Lin II and Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

LOS ANGELES — California officials on Friday declared the end of the Disneyland measles outbreak, but the political battle over immunization that it sparked continues to rage on.

In announcing that the health scare had passed, state medical authorities warned that California remains at high risk of another outbreak because immunization levels in some communities remain so low.

The state epidemiologist, Dr. Gil Chavez, said immunization rates in some schools are at 50 percent or lower, creating an ideal environment for the virus to spread quickly. A study published in JAMA Pediatrics last month calculated that the measles virus in California spread in areas where vaccination rates were less than 86 percent.

But it remains unclear how much the Disneyland outbreak changed attitudes about immunization.

Legislation in Sacramento intended to induce more parents to get their children the measles vaccine and other shots stalled this week amid an outcry from anti-immunization forces who said the government should not tell parents what to do.

The debate on the bill has turned contentious. Last week, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a leading anti-vaccine activist, used the word “holocaust” during a film screening to describe the purported damage done by vaccines to many recipients, a statement for which he later apologized.

Democratic state Sen. Richard Pan, a pediatrician who is pushing for greater vaccination, has been bombarded with personal attacks. One Internet posting imposed a Hitler mustache on Pan’s face; another said: “Can we hang Pan with a noose instead?”

While there has been a surge in vaccinations amid intense media focus on the issue, health officials say the immunization problems are so bad in some communities that a major outbreak could easily happen again.

The idea that the measles vaccine was linked to autism has been thoroughly discredited by scientists. Still, measles vaccination rates in California’s kindergarten classes have been declining over the last dozen years.

Among those whose vaccine status was known, about 7 out of every 10 California measles patients in this outbreak were unvaccinated. “If we had higher levels of immunity in the community, this outbreak would not have happened,” Chavez said.

The Disneyland outbreak sparked an aggressive response from health officials across California and beyond that experts say helped keep the disease from spreading even further.

Public health officials contacted thousands of Californians in 12 counties potentially exposed to measles, leading to warnings in airports, malls, schools, clinics and hospitals. In one hospital alone, a single person with measles exposed 14 pregnant women and 98 infants, including 44 in the neonatal intensive care unit.

One local agency estimated spending 1,700 hours on the measles investigation.

About 1 in 5 who got the measles in California had to be hospitalized. One collapsed at home, was placed on a mechanical ventilator due to severe pneumonia and developed multiple organ injury. Another suffered acute respiratory distress syndrome and had to be treated with an experimental drug that required special approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In all, 131 California residents were believed to have been infected with measles during the outbreak that began at Disneyland, as well as at least 26 people who resided in seven other states, Canada or Mexico, after visiting the Anaheim theme park or catching the virus from someone who went there.

Experts credited public health officials with recognizing the outbreak early and aggressively moving to identify the sick and isolate those exposed to the virus, giving out immunizations and other medicine to the exposed to keep the disease from spreading.

“It’s over, and it’s due to incredibly good public health,” said Dr. James Cherry, a University of California, Los Angeles, professor and primary editor of the Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases.

The outbreak prompted two state lawmakers, Sens. Pan and Ben Allen, also a Democrat, to push for closing a loophole in state law that gives parents the right to refuse state-required vaccinations due to their personal beliefs while still sending their children to public and private schools.

Early on, the bill appeared to have momentum, winning approval of the Senate Health Committee after Gov. Jerry Brown signaled he was open to considering an elimination of all but medical waivers to vaccines.

But SB 277 stalled this week in the Senate Education Committee, where members demanded changes after hundreds of parents lined up to say they would pull their kids out of school if the bill passed. A vote is scheduled for Wednesday.

“There is a problem in denying a child a public education,” said Jean Munoz Keese, a spokeswoman for the California Coalition for Health Choice. Referring to the announcement that the measles outbreak had ended, she said, “It confirms what we have said all along: that we have no crisis.”

The bill faces a difficult future, said Larry Gerston, a political science professor at San Jose State University.

He said the opposition is a blend of libertarians suspicious of anything the government mandates, people who believe in “natural health” remedies and worry vaccines will harm their kids, religious people and parents who don’t have the means to home-school their children if they don’t get a waiver.

“That’s quite a combination,” Gerston said. “One or two of these interests might not be enough to stop the legislation, but these many different sources of opposition, Pan and his allies have their hands full.”

Pan and Allen say they believe they can salvage their legislation and are willing to consider allowing some kind of religious exemption, though Allen said he knows of no mainstream religion that is doctrinally against vaccines.

“There is still an absolute consensus amongst folks in the medical and scientific communities that we have let our vaccination rates drop too low and that any attempt to increase the vaccination rate is an important thing to do,” Allen said.

There are other ways to achieve higher vaccination rates. One idea is to make it harder to get a vaccine exemption, said Saad Omer, an associate professor at Emory University and expert in vaccine policy.

For instance, the state could require parents at the beginning of every school year to write a letter explaining why they don’t want to vaccinate their child, and require it to be notarized and the parents to be counseled by a physician on the risks of not vaccinating.

New York City’s public school system, for example, requires parents to submit a written explanation of religious principles that guide objections to immunizations. Under New York state law, the school system can reject a request for an exemption, and it tells parents that state law does not permit exemptions based on personal, moral, secular or philosophical beliefs.

A federal appeals court in January upheld the New York law as constitutional.

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Photo: Vials of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine are displayed on a counter at a Walgreens Pharmacy on January 26, 2015 in Mill Valley, California (AFP/Justin Sullivan)

Study Links Disneyland Measles Outbreak To Low Vaccination Rates

By Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

Although epidemiologists have not yet identified the person who brought measles to Disneyland, triggering an international outbreak, researchers now say that parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids are probably to blame.

Using some simple math, the researchers show that the vaccination rate among people who were exposed to the measles during the outbreak was no higher than 86 percent, and it might have been as low as 50 percent.

In order to establish herd immunity, between 96 percent and 99 percent of the population must be vaccinated, experts say.

“Even the highest estimated vaccination rates from our model fall well below this threshold,” the researchers reported Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

The team, from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston Children’s Hospital, calculated the range of likely vaccination rates based on a few key data points. Based on historical data, infectious disease experts know that in the absence of any vaccination, a single person infected with measles can spread it to between 11 and 18 other people. They also know that it takes ten to 14 days for one measles case to lead to another.

The last variable in their equation is the number of people in a semi-vaccinated community who actually become infected after exposure to a single person with measles. Since this figure — called the effective reproductive number — isn’t precisely known, the researchers considered scenarios where it was as low as 3.2 and as high as 5.8.

In the best-case scenario, the vaccination rate among people who encountered the measles as a result of the Disneyland outbreak was between 75 percent and 86 percent, the researchers calculated. If the true effective reproductive number was in the middle of the range, the vaccination rate would have been between 66 percent and 81 percent. If the effective reproductive number was high, the vaccination rate had to have been between 50 percent and 71 percent, according to the study.

In other words, the only way to explain how the measles spread from a single person at Disneyland to 142 people in seven states is that a substantial number of American parents have not had their children fully immunized with the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.

“Clearly, MMR vaccination rates in many of the communities that have been affected by this outbreak fall well below the necessary threshold to sustain herd immunity, thus placing the greater population at risk as well,” the researchers concluded.

Public health officials do keep track of vaccination rates. In California, for instance, the state Department of Public Health reported that 92.6 percent of kindergarten students had received at least two doses of the MMR vaccine in the 2014-15 school year.

So why did the study authors go to all this trouble? In an outbreak involving a major tourist destination like Disneyland, there is no single state, county or school district that can report the overall vaccination rate, the researchers wrote. As a result, mathematical modeling like this may give a clearer picture than any individual government agency.

The scope of the multistate outbreak is certainly a reflection of the anti-vaccination movement, which continues to grow despite overwhelming medical evidence that the vaccines do not cause autism or other developmental problems. In most cases, side effects are limited to pain at the injection site, fever, a mild rash or temporary swelling, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In rare cases, children may have a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine or develop febrile seizures, joint pain, temporary arthritis or a blood disorder called immune thrombocytopenic purpura.

The outbreak “shines a glaring spotlight on our nation’s growing anti-vaccination movement and the prevalence of vaccination-hesitant parents,” the authors wrote.

In California, three state legislators have introduced a bill that would make it more difficult for parents to opt out of vaccinations by claiming a personal belief exemption. The bill, SB 277, would require children to be vaccinated against measles and other infectious diseases before enrolling in California schools.

One of the sponsors of the bill is Dr. Richard Pan, a pediatrician who represents Sacramento.

Photo: Melissa Johnson via Flickr

What Makes Rand Paul Strange

Senator Rand Paul believes that vaccinating children should be up to the parents, an increasingly unpopular view after recent outbreaks of measles, mumps and other diseases. And throwing a newt’s eye of quack science into the vat, the Kentucky Republican promotes the myth that these shots put children at risk.

The political results have been toil and trouble.

It’s not easy being a politician and a principled libertarian. One who believes in the primacy of individual freedom often takes stances far from the mainstream. It is the true libertarian’s lot to be unconventional, to bravely accept unwanted consequences in the name of liberty. By not going that extra philosophical mile — and adding junk science to the mix — Paul comes off as merely weird.

He was already fighting blowback when he ventured into an interview with CNBC’s Kelly Evans.

“Well, I guess being for freedom would be really unusual,” he responded to a question about whether vaccinations should be voluntary. “I don’t understand … why that would be controversial.”

Does he not? Then he again gave credence to crazy talk of healthy children ending up with “profound mental disorders” after being vaccinated.

When the chat moved to taxes and Evans challenged some of his statements, he shushed her as though she were a little girl. “Calm down a bit here, Kelly,” he said.

Clearly, it wasn’t Kelly who needed calming.

By the end, Paul had accused Evans of being argumentative and blamed the media for distorting positions he had left purposely vague. Not his finest hour.

A real libertarian wanting his party’s presidential nomination has only two choices:

1) Come clean and acknowledge the cost side of your beliefs. If you think parents have the right not to vaccinate their children, agree that more Americans might come down with preventable diseases as a result. Provocative, perhaps, but honest.

2) If you don’t want that controversy tied around your neck, say that you have changed your mind on vaccinations and now hold that they should be required. Not totally honest but at least coherent.

Put into practice, libertarianism can make a mess. If parents have the right to endanger others by not getting their children immunized, why can’t individuals decide whether they’re too drunk to drive?

Paul does say that it’s a good idea to have one’s children vaccinated. Yes, and it’s a good idea to drive while sober.

Libertarian purity led Paul to question a key provision of the 1964 Civil Rights Act some years ago. He argued that the law interferes with a private business owner’s right to discriminate.

Paul said he abhors racism, and we have no reason to doubt him. But his position, though principled, would have left the disaster of Jim Crow intact.

On MSNBC, Rachel Maddow asked Paul this: “Do you think that a private business has a right to say, ‘We don’t serve black people’?”

His answer meandered along a familiar path. Private individuals have a right to hold hateful views, Paul responded, but he resented the question because it implied that he shares them. Actually, the question could not have been more straightforward.

Paul gets credit for letting the liberal Maddow interview him. And his libertarianism on other issues — for example, his opposition to the war on drugs — serves him well.

But he does himself no good by continually throwing smoke bombs at questioners trying to pin him down — changing the subject and accusing them of mischaracterizing his position. If Paul thinks the price of individual freedom is worth paying, he should concede what that price is.

Otherwise, he ends up where he is, stirring a boiling cauldron of weird politics.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr