OLYMPIA, Wash. - On Wednesday, the center of Washington State’s Capitol turned into a pulpit for people against vaccines.
“We are anti dangerous vaccines, we are anti pharmaceutical companies making billions of dollars,” said one woman.
Del Bigtree, the founder of Informed Consent Action Network and a prominent activist, traveled from California to tell lawmakers in Washington that families should have the right to choose.
“I think what we should be terrified about is the government force injecting children with the products we don’t have a say over,” Bigtree said.
The passion spilled over in a public hearing over a Senate bill trying to take personal exemptions off the table when it comes to all vaccines. More than 800 people signed up to provide testimony.
“Herd immunity is a myth,” Bigtree said.
Doctors say it’s that kind of misinformation that is causing the measles outbreak in Washington.
“Let’s stop it now, let’s not wait until we have a death in this state. The evidence is clear, the science is robust,” Dr. Robyn Rogers said.
“For those folks who really believe that this is going to cause harm, they need to witness the harm that can be caused elsewhere,” Gary Goldbaum with the WA State Medical Association said.
Goldbaum survived polio before the vaccine came out. He says his brother had more serious complications from the disease that caused him to be bound to a wheelchair for some time.
“He was only 2 years old, and because of the polio he was required to go through months and months of physical and occupational therapy,” Goldbaum said.
Goldbaum says viruses once eradicated are tragically taking lives unnecessarily.
In 2017, Goldbaum says the measles killed 110,000 people worldwide.
“For those folks who really believe that this is going to cause harm they need to witness the harm that can be caused elsewhere,” Goldbaum said.
But many who showed up to testify on Wednesday will never change their minds on vaccines. During the hearing many raised their hands to show that they believed vaccines injured their children.
“You cannot attempt to protect those susceptible to poor infection outcomes by ignoring the genetic minority at risk of vaccine injury like my son,” said one woman.
And Bigtree is going as far as to say that the majority of those in the medical field have it wrong.
“They only go to one place for the source of information which is CDC,” Bigtree said.
Bigtree says there is no standard for vaccine testing.
Dr. Rogers says that is false, she says numerous studies independent of the CDC and the government have deemed vaccines not only safe but life saving.
“You are not creating asthma, autoimmunity, allergies, autism from the vaccines,” Dr. Rogers said.
Senate Bill 5841 is scheduled for a committee vote on Friday. The bill would allow medical or religious exemptions.
Sen. Annette Cleveland who is sponsoring the bill says her initiative could lower the threat of exposure by 75 percent.
They say in 2017 to 2018 about 3.7 percent of kindergarteners were not vaccinated due to personal exemptions. Supporters of the bill say the vaccination rate would go up if personal exemptions are off the table.
“If folks choose not to vaccinate their children then they will be making a choice to homeschool or do online education,” State Secretary of Health John Wiesman said.
Wiesman says so far the state has spent about $1 million to fight the outbreak.
Doctors say it’s a social contract to vaccinate your children, especially for those who cannot. Infants, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems cannot get the measles vaccine.
As of Wednesday night, there were 64 cases of the measles in Washington state, mostly in Clark County. The majority of the sick are unvaccinated children.
State health experts say they do not know when the wave of measles will end.